Wailing almost uncontrollably, Daniel E. Thompson Jr. told a police detective again and again after his arrest last year that he was not a bad person, even as he recounted details of the fatal stabbing of a man who was hours from becoming a father.
"Jesus! Jesus!" Thompson moaned repeatedly in the taped conversation. "I pray for help! God help me, please!"
Now, during his first-degree murder trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court, the mercy he seeks is from a jury of his peers. Jurors who heard the tape in court yesterday must decide whether he is responsible for the death May 10, 2008, of Carlos Adolfo Santay-Carrillo, 19, during what police said was a botched robbery while the victim was buying gas at a Catonsville gas station.
Santay-Carrillo's wife, Claudia Sales, was in labor at home, waiting for her husband to return and drive her to Howard County General Hospital. When he failed to arrive, an ambulance took his wife to the facility, where she delivered a healthy son early the next morning - Mother's Day.
It was only then that she was told her husband had died. She named the boy Carlos.
"Tell her I'm sorry!" Thompson told the detective, Matthew Walsh, as they rode on May 15, 2008, in a police car to the spot where the suspect said he had tossed a knife after the killing. The weapon was not found, but Walsh commended Thompson for cooperating and being honest about what had occurred.
As Thompson's anguish echoed through Judge Judith C. Ensor's courtroom, one of his dozen or so relatives and friends in attendance stood up and left, sobbing. At the defense's table, Thompson wiped his eyes with a tissue. His lawyer, Margaret A. Mead, put an arm around his shoulders.
The victim's father, sitting in a wheelchair, also brushed away tears. The widow, who testified Wednesday, the first day of the trial, said after yesterday's session that she would prefer not to comment until a verdict has been rendered, although she said her baby boy is doing well, and thanked God for it.
Witnesses to the crime called police, and Santay-Carrillo was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died from multiple stab wounds to the chest. Police said that the gas station had no video camera but that a camera at a nearby business recorded a young male fleeing the station.
The videotape and a tip from an anonymous 911 caller led to the arrest of Thompson. A search of his home in West Edmondale turned up clothing matching those worn by the killer and recorded on the camera, police said.
The suspect, who was 17 at the time of the killing, asked the detective on the tape when he might have to face a judge, and was told that a hearing would take place soon, although, as often happens, it might be subject to postponement. In the meantime, Walsh assured him, he would be held at the "cleanest and newest" of the area's lock-ups, the Baltimore County Detention Center.