Slain witness might yet have say

The Baltimore Sun

A Rosedale man fatally shot in front of his home in July had been ordered killed to silence his testimony in a Baltimore murder trial, police said yesterday.

Carl Stanley Lackl, 38, was the target of a plot launched by jailed murder suspect Patrick Albert Byers, 22, according to Baltimore County police.

Lackl was killed eight days before he was to testify as a key witness in Byers' trial.

Police accused Byers of sending a text message to an associate's BlackBerry giving Lackl's name and address and offering $1,000 for his death. Both men were charged this week with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Lackl's death July 2.

"The motivation here was witness intimidation - witness murder, to be precise," said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman.

Baltimore prosecutors said yesterday that they would seek to use provisions of a state law that permits them to present recorded testimony from silenced witnesses - in this case, a statement made by Lackl to police.

If they are successful, it would be the first time in Maryland that testimony from a person killed because of witness intimidation would be used in court, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office.

"We intend to have Carl Lackl testify from the grave," Burns said.

Speaking on behalf of family members, Lackl's sister, Kimberly Underwood, said she was relieved to hear that police had linked Byers to her brother's death.

"I'm just glad that my brother's testimony can be used and he didn't die in vain," she said, adding that she was horrified by allegations that those accused in her brother's death were paid no more than $1,000 to kill him.

Six people - including a teenager accused of firing the shots that killed Lackl - have been charged in the man's death, and police said yesterday that they have no more suspects.

Lackl, a fencing company employee described by relatives as a devoted father, had been asked to testify in the trial of Byers, who was 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.

Byers is being held at the city detention center. He was charged this week with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Lackl's death.

Attempts to reach Ivan Bates, an attorney for Byers, were unsuccessful yesterday.

In a text message, Byers gave information about Lackl to Frank Keith Goodman, 21, of the 1600 block of Cliftview Ave. in Baltimore, court records show.

It was unclear how Byers might have sent the text message from jail, but Burns said her office has prosecuted multiple cases involving illegal cell phone trafficking in city correctional facilities.

Two other suspects arrested in the case told investigators that Goodman showed the text message to them and others gathered on Harford Road near Normal Avenue on June 30, the documents show.

The documents do not name the two suspects.

Two days later, Lackl was at his home in the 8000 block of Philadelphia Road about 8:45 p.m. when he received a call about a Cadillac that he was selling. As Lackl stood next to the Cadillac, a dark-colored car drove up, and a 15-year-old inside shot him three times, court documents show. Lackl, who was shot in the arm, chest and leg, was pronounced dead soon after arriving at a nearby hospital.

Goodman was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and was being held without bail at the county Detention Center.

Goodman told police he has been friendly with Byers and his family for many years, and has served jail time with him, court document show.

He said he visited Byers in jail with Byers' father and brought "court clothes" to the jail for him, the documents show. Goodman estimated that he has talked to Byers at least 20 times since Byers has been in jail, according to the documents.

Reached by phone, a woman who identified herself as Goodman's girlfriend hung up on a reporter.

Goodman told court officials that he lives with his mother and for the past three years has worked as a cook at a deli in Baltimore, the documents indicate.

Goodman appears to have been previously charged in another act of witness intimidation, said Burns, spokeswoman for Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.

In 2006, Goodman was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Jonathan Tyson, who had allegedly witnessed a double homicide. Prosecutors believed that Goodman's "job was to silence this man from testifying in that murder case," Burns said. A jury acquitted Goodman of the charges.

Burns said Tyson initially told police that Goodman had shot him but recanted in court.

Also charged with murder in Lackl's death are Jonathan Ryan Cornish, 16, and Ronald Wendell Williams, 21, both of Baltimore; and Marcus Antwan Pearson, 26, and Tammy Sherie Graham, 24, both with no fixed address.

Investigators had searched Byers' jail cell and found personal papers in a "cracker box" that contained Lackl's name and address, court documents show.

Toohey, of the county police, said multiple tips, interviews and other evidence pointed to the jailed murder defendant.

"All roads led to Byers," Toohey said.

Lackl's killing illustrates the problem of witness intimidation that has long beset the city, Burns said.

"The allegations made public today highlight the continuing public safety crisis in Baltimore," she said.

"The scope of the conspiracy of silence is largely responsible for the increased violent crime in Baltimore and must be treated as our No. 1 threat to public safety."

Byers is scheduled to go to trial Thursday in the March 2006 shooting of Larry Haynes, 30, in East Baltimore.

Prosecutors intend to ask the judge to allow recorded statements that Lackl made to police to be introduced as evidence, Burns said.

If the judge approves, a hearing would be held without the jury present, at which prosecutors would attempt to demonstrate that Byers ordered Lackl to be killed.

The judge would then rule whether a recording of Lackl's statements to police can be played before a jury.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said last night that Lackl's death is the "perfect scenario" for the state law that allows such statements to be used.

"The purpose of the law was to allow what would otherwise be deemed hearsay evidence to be presented in a trial if a link could be proved between the witness being silenced and the defendant, and that seems as if it could be the case here," Gansler said.

Sun reporter Gina Davis contributed to this article.

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