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Killing of South Baltimore bartender Wroblewski: What state calls murder, defense deems a 'tragic incident'

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and City Councilman Eric Costello spoke at a candlelight vigil Saturday night, held for slain Baltimore resident Alex Wroblewski, who was killed in a robbery earlier in the week. (Luke Broadwater / Baltimore Sun video)

Alex Wroblewski, a well-known bartender from Locust Point, was walking home from work and had stopped at a nearby Royal Farms when a man and his girlfriend sized him up, stalked him and shot him, prosecutors allege.

But Julie Shapiro, an attorney for defendant Marquese Winston, called the case “a tragic incident.” She claimed that it was Wroblewski who “lunged forward,” instigating the encounter that turned deadly.

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“This case was not about a robbery. Mr. Wroblewski still had all of his property,” Shapiro said. He still has his wallet, cellphone and even the food he had bought, she said.

The attorneys painted vastly different pictures of the November 2017 encounter during opening statements Friday in the case against Winston, 25, of Richmond, Va., and his girlfriend, Tonya Hayes, 38, of Atlanta. They are on trial in Wroblewski’s killing.

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Hours of courtroom negotiations ended Friday with a 21-year-old man agreeing to testify against his mother and her boyfriend as they stand trial for the killing of Locust Point bartender Alex Wroblewski.

Days after the killing, police had arrested Hayes and Winston in Atlanta — and Hayes’ son, Tivontre Gatling-Mouzon in Richmond days later. Authorities charged each with 22 counts — murder, robbery, assault — and set the trial for February 2019.

On the eve of trial, however, Gatling-Mouzon accepted a plea deal for eight years in prison. In exchange, he promised to testify against his mother and her boyfriend. Their trial was rescheduled for this week in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Wroblewski, 41, had been walking home after tending bar at The Rowhouse Grille in Federal Hill. He stopped at Royal Farms on Key Highway around 1:15 a.m. for milk and cookies.

Friendly store employees were looking out for their customer, Assistant State’s Attorney Sheryl Atkins told jurors. Wroblewski was visibly intoxicated.

Winston and his girlfriend pulled up to the convenience store. The couple had traveled to Baltimore to pick up Hayes’ daughter, then head back south, the prosecutor said. Hayes’ son, Gatling-Mouzon, 20, waited in the car while the couple went inside.

Baltimore Police said two people being sought in connection with the killing of a 41-year-old man in South Baltimore have been apprehended in Atlanta.

They walked in while Wroblewski walked out. On the surveillance video, Wroblewski holds the door open for them.

What happened next, Atkins said, was “appalling.”

“These defendants took advantage of Mr. Wroblewski’s obvious vulnerability,” she said of his intoxication. “Vulnerability is not permission to exploit.”

But Natalie Finegar, who is representing Hayes, said her client is innocent. “When she leaves the store, she has no idea about what’s about to take place,” Finegar said.

“She was coming to be a responsible mother,” Finegar said, describing how Hayes left Atlanta to help her daughter. But the trip became an “absolute road trip from hell.”

Candlelight vigil honors Locust Point man killed outside Royal Farms.

Prosecutors say her boyfriend went back to the car and reached under the seat for a gun. Then Winston and Gatling-Mouzon walked up the street after Wroblewski.

The two men put their hoods up as they pursued him and Hayes crept behind in the car, prosecutors said. After a struggle, the killer fatally shot Wroblewski in his stomach. The killers drove off and surveillance cameras captured the crime.

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Winston fired the single, deadly shot, prosecutors said. Hayes drove them away.

Nicknamed “Albo,” Wroblewski was well-known in his Locust Point neighborhood. Posters with his nickname hang from bars, restaurants and rowhome windows. Hundreds of people packed a candlelight vigil in his memory.

In a city besieged by gun violence, Wroblewski was killed in a neighborhood that rarely sees a homicide. He was shot outside the new $100 million luxury apartment complex known as Anthem House off Fort Avenue.

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