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Shooting victim was murder witness

The Baltimore Sun

A Rosedale man who was shot to death outside his home in the presence of a 10-year-old girl Monday night was a key witness in a Baltimore murder case set for trial next week, prosecutors said.

Carl Stanley Lackl, 38, was in front of his home in the 8000 block of Philadelphia Road about 8:45 p.m., waiting to meet a person who had called him, ostensibly about a car that he was selling, said Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. Michael Hill.

As Lackl stood there, a dark-colored car drove up and a person inside opened fire, hitting him several times, police said.

Lackl, who neighbors said was a devoted father of two and worked for a fencing company, died soon after arriving at Franklin Square Hospital Center, police said.

Both city and Baltimore County law enforcement officials said it was too soon to say whether Lackl was killed because of his scheduled testimony.

But prosecutors vowed to pursue the case against the city defendant. If evidence is found that Lackl was killed because of his cooperation, prosecutors said they would seek to use provisions of state law that permit the use of recorded testimony from silenced witnesses.

"It's very suspicious because it's so close [to the trial] and it's this [key witness]," said Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.

The trial had been scheduled for July 10, but it might be postponed because of Lackl's death, she said.

The Rosedale man had been asked to testify in the trial of Patrick Byers, 22, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the March 4, 2006, shooting of Larry Haynes, 30, in East Baltimore, Burns said.

Lackl had stopped in an East Baltimore alley when he saw a man shoot another and then hide a gun, according to court documents. Lackl later picked out Byers' face in a photo array as the shooter, according to the documents.

"He had a legitimate reason to be in the area," Burns said. "He was taking a brief break. ... He just innocently witnessed the homicide."

Lackl and another witness identified the shooter as Byers, of the 500 block of Lakewood Ave.

A letter provided by the state's attorney's office shows that the prosecutor, Cynthia M. Banks, had requested a meeting with Lackl to discuss disclosing his name and address to defense attorneys. Burns could not disclose whether Lackl was under witness protection but said no one in the city's program had ever died.

If witness intimidation is proved to be a motive for Lackl's killing, prosecutors can use any of his sworn recorded testimony under a law passed in 2005, Burns said.

Prosecutors would hold a hearing separate from the trial to decide whether there is proof that Lackl was killed because he was planning to testify.

"We could use his testimony from the grave," Burns said. "We intend to proceed in this case."

The city has had a long-standing problem getting the cooperation of witnesses and protecting them from violence, an issue that gained national prominence in 2002 when seven members of a family were killed by an arsonist in retaliation for their cooperation with police. Two years later, an underground DVD surfaced that exhorted witnesses to "stop snitching."

Jessamy has made combating witness intimidation a priority in recent years, supporting efforts to increase funding for witness protection and to increase prison terms for intimidation.

"We're deeply grieved for the families of these situations, but we're also concerned about the criminal justice process," Burns said.

The city has seen about a dozen killings since 2005 and several dozen since 2000 tied to witness intimidation, she said. And there could be more incidents where a link to witness intimidation could not be clearly established, she said.

The names of witnesses are available to the public through court records, and they are generally made available to defense attorneys up to 60 days before trial, Burns said.

"We do see that if there is a murder, it is close to the trial," she said -- often the week before, she added. "That's like the dangerous seven days."

Byers had been convicted of dealing drugs in 2004 and acquitted of first-degree murder in 2005. He also has a probation violation hearing scheduled for the end of the month.

Lackl was convicted in 1991 of a vehicle theft and ordered to serve a year of probation and pay $175 in fines and fees, according to court records.

He was convicted in 1994 of drug possession.

In that case, a Baltimore County District Court judge sentenced Lackl to 90 days in jail and directed him to pay $50, court records show.

Three years later, in 1997, Lackl was convicted again of drug possession, placed on 18 months' probation and ordered to pay $250, according to court records. The judge suspended a one-year jail sentence.

Neighbors in Rosedale said they were shocked that a man could be shot on busy Philadelphia Road just 20 minutes after sunset.

Several neighbors said they heard the shots but assumed they were hearing people celebrating Independence Day early.

"We definitely heard something, but we thought it was just fireworks," said Ernie Taylor, a neighbor. "Normally, I'd be out in a minute, but with it being so close to the Fourth, I didn't think anything of it."

People gathered at Lackl's home declined to comment. "It's a bad time for us," one man said.

"He thought he did the right thing getting involved" as a witness, said Clyde Moyer, a neighbor. He described Lackl as a devoted father who played with his two young daughters each afternoon after coming home from work.

Lackl's home, which neighbors said he shares with his wife and daughters as well as several other relatives, sits across from a beauty salon, a hardware store, a bank and a Moose lodge. The neighborhood is a mixture of retirees and young families, residents said.

Lackl had planned to take his daughters, one school-age and one just beginning to walk, to the fireworks in Dundalk tonight, said Moyer, the neighbor.

"He was not ashamed to show affection to his children," Moyer said. Lackl taught his older daughter to roller skate and ride a bicycle, and pulled his younger daughter around in a wagon, he said.

"When that baby came along, there wasn't a day that you didn't see him with the baby in the wagon," he said.

Moyer went to help the family after hearing about the shooting and found the baby inconsolable.

"All the baby wanted last night was her daddy," he said.

Sun reporter Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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