Puzzling evidence marks murder trial

The Baltimore Sun

Witnesses said they saw Carlos Martinez Rice leaving the scene of the fatal April 2007 shooting of Aaron "Peach Cake" Brown, and Annapolis police said evidence linked Rice to a murder weapon. When the 21-year-old was apprehended the next day fleeing from another shooting in the same public housing complex, the case might have seemed like a lock.

But Rice's getaway car presented a problem: It was riddled with bullet holes, fired from the gun that police had connected to Rice.

Rice's murder trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court opened yesterday with his defense attorney saying that the bullet holes prove that Rice didn't have the weapon, and that witnesses who identified him were mistaken.

"The weapon fired on this man [Rice] is the same one that killed Peach Cake," attorney Gill Cochran said. "Someone used that same weapon and fired at [Rice]."

But prosecutors said the admittedly unexplained twist shouldn't distract jurors from the evidence that they say clearly connects Rice to the killing.

"Every time, the trail comes back to the defendant," prosecutor Anastacia Prigge said.

Brown, a 44-year-old Annapolis resident who was described yesterday as well-known and well-liked, was shot in the back of the head about 11 p.m. April 15, 2007, in the Harbour House community in Eastport after arguing with two younger men. At least three witnesses told police that Rice, a resident of Bryans Road in Charles County, pulled the trigger.

Police searched Rice's room at his mother's home and found .40-caliber ammunition. Spent shell casings left at the scene were also .40-caliber, and police matched the casings to a gun owned by Kimberly Crystal Simms, 23, of Annapolis.

The next night, police pulled over Simms and Rice in a green van seen speeding away from where gunshots had been reported in the Harbour House community, not far from where Brown had been killed. Inside the van was a gun case with a serial number that matched the gun registered to Simms.

The van had been shot at, and the bullets were imprinted with the serial number of the weapon, Cochran said. The gun was later recovered in Baltimore.

"It shows that this thing is not open and shut. It shows that this man is not the killer at all," he said. Jurors did not hear yesterday that, 12 days before Brown's killing, Rice had been released from an Anne Arundel County jail after being sentenced to probation before judgment on a second-degree assault charge.

Court papers from that case show that Rice was accused of smashing the head of his ex-girlfriend into the windshield of her car while they were driving on Riva Road in Annapolis.justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Sun reporter David Zenlea contributed to this article.

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