DNA of suspects in Harris killing not found on mask

The Baltimore Sun

The skull mask left at the Northeast Baltimore scene of former City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr.'s killing does not contain the DNA of either suspect charged in the homicide, according to a crime lab report reviewed yesterday by The Baltimore Sun.

Attorneys for the two suspects, Gary Collins and Charles Y. McGaney, entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of their clients yesterday and, afterward, questioned the strength of the evidence against the two men.

The smiling, blood-splattered Halloween-style mask became the public face of the investigation after city police distributed a photograph of it and said that one of the men wore it in the Sept. 20 robbery-turned-killing outside a popular Northeast Baltimore jazz club. Harris had stopped there about 1:15 a.m. to use the restroom and borrow a corkscrew as a woman waited in his car.

Police then released grainy images from a surveillance camera that showed one man apparently holding a mask behind his back. In charging documents, police wrote that McGaney, 20, "was in possession of the mask."

But McGaney's attorney is questioning how that could be when DNA from three other people - all unknown to analysts - was found on the evidence. McGaney's DNA was not.

"We're refuting inaccurate information put out there" by police, said attorney Maureen Rowland.

Although the Nov. 12, 2008, crime lab analysis confirmed that Collins' and McGaney's DNA was not found on the mask, it did link the suspects to latex gloves and bandanas recovered from the crime scene. At least one of the gloves was found in an alley behind Northwood Plaza, the shopping center that houses the jazz club.

Police are looking for a third suspect in the case. That person could be the "Unknown Male #1" whom crime lab analysts identified as "the major contributor" of DNA on the mask, according to the report.

Prosecutors and police declined to comment for this article.

Investigators have never said whether they believe one of the suspects in custody was the gunman.

Keith Covington, owner of New Haven Lounge, said after the killing that he and Harris hadn't taken three steps out the club's front door when a masked gunman emerged from behind a column, followed by three more armed men. Police have said only three men participated.

The club owner said a man wearing a skull mask aimed a gun at Covington's head and ordered him to open the club's door. As Covington turned to the door, he saw Harris trying to get to his car and heard a pop. Covington said in a September interview that he did not see who fired the shot that killed Harris.

"We were pretty optimistic that following the arrest of the first two individuals that we may get some cooperation or some insight as to who the third person is," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said last week. "We're still optimistic that that is forthcoming, but I think some of the process has to play out before we get to that stage. So we're still confident that we'll get the identity of the third. And again, it's a priority case."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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