Record trails murder suspect

The Baltimore Sun

Police investigating the fatal shooting of a Rosedale man who had been a key witness in a Baltimore murder case announced yesterday the arrest of a third suspect -- a man who had previously been charged numerous times with drug-related offenses.

Marcus Antwan Pearson, 26, with no known address, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 2 killing of Carl Stanley Lackl.

Pearson is accused of calling Lackl about a car that the Rosedale man was selling to lure him outside of his home, according to charging documents. After showing the way to Lackl's house, Pearson and his girlfriend looked on from a shopping center parking lot as Lackl was shot, and they remained there as police and paramedics arrived at the home, the documents state.

Police last month arrested a 15-year-old West Baltimore youth accused of firing the fatal shots and a 21-year-old Baltimore man described as the driver of the car used in the shooting. Baltimore County police said yesterday that the investigation was continuing and that detectives were trying to determine a motive for the killing.

In the past decade, Pearson has been arrested at least 10 times and charged with numerous crimes, including second-degree assault, armed carjacking and manufacturing and dealing drugs, a search of public court records shows.

However, many of the charges against Pearson were dismissed, and in other instances he was convicted of lesser charges.

Pearson's lengthy criminal record underscores the frustrations that prosecutors often deal with in the city, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.

"I feel very strongly that our prosecutors worked very hard to prosecute these cases, but it's clear from the record that had there been more exhaustive investigations, they could have yielded stronger cases," Burns said. "Either [Pearson] had the technique down and he's very good at it, or we were never able to fully prosecute what could have been a very strong case."

In early 1999, just a few days before he turned 18, Pearson was sentenced to two years' probation for drug possession. He was charged with crimes in six other incidents that year -- including an armed carjacking -- and was found guilty of violating his probation and sentenced to one year in jail in November 1999. In May 2000, Pearson was back on the street and was arrested on a marijuana possession charge. The case was later dismissed.

He was charged with manufacturing drugs and dealing drugs in three other cases. In 2002, he was sentenced to two years in jail for his role in a drug deal.

A year later, Pearson was brought to trial with three other defendants on drug manufacturing and possession charges. He was found guilty of a lesser offense and was not sentenced to jail time, Burns said.

In November 2004, undercover officers observed Pearson apparently carrying drugs from a stash house to an area where drugs were being sold, prosecutors said. When the officers returned with a warrant the next day, they did not uncover evidence that directly linked Pearson to the drugs, prosecutors said.

Under a plea agreement, Pearson received a 12-year sentence with all but time served while awaiting trial -- two days -- suspended. He was placed on three years of supervised probation.

Burns said that cases such Pearson's are not unusual in the city because police often bring charges without sufficient evidence to prove guilt. Jurors who distrust police testimony further complicate the problem and lead to many cases of people being frequently charged but rarely convicted.

"I know that this happens all too often," Burns said. "It's certainly frustrating to the public. They look at it and say why aren't we prosecuting this case. We certainly try to do the best we can with the witnesses and evidence that we have, but ultimately what is required is the evidence, and drugs in the defendant's hand to prove a case."

A Baltimore police spokesman said he had not reviewed the previous cases against Pearson and could not comment on them. But he said that dealing with repeat offenders is one of the department's biggest challenges.

"There are so many variables, between the street and the last day in court, that there are a lot of places that things can go wrong," said the spokesman, Sterling Clifford.

He added: "I would have to let prosecutors speak to prosecutions. But when the State's Attorney's Office comes to the Police Department with something they need, we do our best to make sure we provide everything they need."

Lackl, a fencing company employee described by relatives as a devoted father, had been asked to testify in the trial of Patrick Byers, 22, who has been charged with first-degree murder in a March 2006 shooting, authorities said. Lackl had stopped in an East Baltimore alley when he saw a man shoot another, then hide a gun, according to court documents.

While police say they have not linked the killing of Lackl to his role as a witness, a police spokesman said yesterday that evidence suggests Lackl's murder was planned, and not a random act of violence.

"Somebody was specifically out to get him, although we don't know why," said the spokesman, Bill Toohey. "Everything that was done indicates that the shooters intended to kill Mr. Lackl."

Pearson and his girlfriend were on Normal Avenue in Baltimore on July 2 when the murder of Lackl was being planned, according to charging documents. Pearson told police that Ronald Wendell Williams, 21, agreed to drive the car to Lackl's house and that Johnathan Ryan Cornish, 15, would be the gunman, the documents state.

Williams and Cornish were unsure how to get to Lackl's house, and "Pearson volunteered to show them the way," the documents state. Pearson's girlfriend, who is not named in the documents, drove a Honda with Pearson in the front passenger seat, and Williams and Cornish followed in a green Chevrolet Camaro, the documents state.

After the shooting, the documents say, the couple returned to Normal Avenue and met with Cornish and Williams, who "began to brag about the murder to their friends."

Williams and Cornish were arrested and charged with first-degree murder July 13 and are being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center. Detectives arrested Pearson about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 1600 block of Normal Ave., county police said.

Pearson waived his right to a bail review hearing yesterday. He was being held at the county detention center without bail, authorities said.

Byers' murder trial was postponed last month and was reset for Sept. 13.

Prosecutors have said that if evidence shows Lackl was killed because of his cooperation, they would seek to use provisions of state law allowing recorded testimony from silenced witnesses.

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