A Michigan woman drove more than 500 miles to kill her ex-boyfriend in Randallstown last June, a Baltimore County prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.
In opening statements, the state laid out its theory against Deidra Veella Griffin, 41, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Lonnie Paye Jr., 51. Prosecutors allege Griffin fatally shot him because of a custody dispute over their young son.
But defense attorney Tyler Mann said Paye and Griffin were working to resolve their custody issues.
"The state's entire case is circumstantial," Mann said. "It is not true that she killed him, and it is not true that they had a custody battle."
Paye, a contractor, was found shot to death in his garage July 1 after his girlfriend called police to check on him. Detectives believe that Paye was killed June 19. Prosecutor Garret Glennon told jurors the state would present "a mountain of evidence" against Griffin during the trial.
"You're going to be left with no doubt," he said.
He said Paye and Griffin had broken up before the birth of their son, now a toddler. A Michigan judge granted Paye visitation rights, and Paye was scheduled to go to Michigan to pick up the baby and bring him to Maryland for a five-day visit at the end of June.
The prosecutor said Griffin, who lived in Bay City, Mich., flew to Baltimore June 16 for a job interview at Johns Hopkins University.
According to charging documents filed in the case, Griffin flew back to Michigan the day after her interview — but police think she later returned to the Baltimore area by car.
Griffin rented a car in the Baltimore area for her job interview, but when she retuned it, she said the license plate had been stolen, according to the documents. Detectives say Griffin placed the license plate on another vehicle she used to drive back to Baltimore to kill Paye.
Glennon said footage from a security camera at Paye's home in the 4300 block of Travancore Court would show a woman of the same stature as Griffin entering the home June 19 and later leaving.
Mann told the jury the footage is grainy and that the state would not be able to prove the identity of the woman depicted in it. He questioned why detectives did not focus their investigation on other women Paye had dated.
"It's not my client," Mann said.
Jurors heard from several prosecution witnesses Tuesday, including Wanda Gresham, who had been dating Paye for a few months. She said Paye was excited to see his son, and planned to go shopping for items such as a crib, blankets and clothing to prepare for the visit.
The trial is expected to last about a week.