The Baltimore police crime lab technician put on white latex gloves and carefully opened a yellow envelope, letting a box-cutter fall into his hand. Testifying at a murder trial Friday, he held up it up and paraded it in front of the jury.
“You can see there’s still some blood on the blade,” the technician, Franklin Saunders, said as he walked jurors through a gruesome crime scene, showing them evidence and photographs of a bloody room and a body of a teenager crumpled in the fetal position in his bedroom closet.
It the was second day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of Dante Parrish, charged with suffocating and cutting the throat of 15-year-old Jason Mattison Jr. in an upstairs room of an East Baltimore rowhouse in November 2009.
Jurors also heard from a friend of the family that lived in the house and who was among the first to trace a trail of blood that started on a staircase banister and led to the back bedroom where Jason’s body was found.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Hastings, in her opening statement on Wednesday, described a horrific series of events that she said included a careful plot by the suspect to cover his crime and stage a burglary.
Hastings displayed the crime scene pictures and a map of the apartment on a large screen, and with the lights dimmed in the court room, Saunders described every item — an oval pattern of blood spatter on a bedroom wall, on a banister, on the front door, on the sheets, on the pillowcases, on the mattress and on the box spring.
Saunders said he found cigarette butts in an ashtray near the body, and one butt, along with saliva, in a toilet where prosecutors said the suspect cleaned up. Another picture showed Jason at the floor of the closet, behind a pile of clothes, with his head curled up under his feet and out of view.
Jason, a standout high school student, had gone to stay with his great-aunt because he was not welcome in his mother’s and grandmother’s house because he was gay. But Hastings described the house on Llewellyn Avenue as a drug den with transient traffic, and she said on the day Jason was attacked both his great-aunt and her brother had passed out from heroin and could not hear his screams for help.
The suspect, Parrish, had came to the house just after getting out of prison after winning a new trial on a conviction for murder in 1999. Prosecutors said Jason was suffocated with a pillowcase, and cut 15 times on the head, neck and face, three times so deep that it cut the artery in neck in three different places.
Hastings said that on the night of Nov. 9, 2009, Anthony Dealy, 27, and two women who lived at the house went to a party in Cherry Hill. They returned about 3 a.m. on Nov. 10 and found the lights in the house off, a single candle burning and the living room television set missing. He said the great-aunt was asleep and her brother had passed out in a chair in the living room.
Dealy testified that one person called police as he went downstairs to the basement to find that someone had turned off all the breaker switches. He turned them on, and power returned. He then went upstairs and found a ceiling light still off in the back bedroom.
He testified that he stood on the bed and reached up to unscrew the bulb, but saw it was loose. He said the light came on when he tightened it. But Dealy said he did not look at the room closely, and did not see the blood-stained mattress and box spring, or the blood smeared on the wall. He went to the front bedroom and fell asleep, without knowing Jason’s body was in a closet.
Hastings said in her opening statement that the police officer who took the report on the stolen television did not look around and also failed to notice blood on the front door and banister. The officer left, and it was hours later that Dealy said he awoke to screams.
“They were hollering about blood,” he testified. He got up and traced the blood trail to the back bedroom, where he had fixed the light, and said he saw the blood-stained mattress, which had been turned over, bloody sheets piled on a canister, and the box cutter.
Dealy said that the victim’s great-aunt picked up the bloody cox cutter, and that he swatted it from her hand and placed it on top of the sheets. “Call the police,” Dealy said he told her. Police came and found Jason’s body in the closet.
Parrish’s attorney, Bridget Shepherd of the public defender’s office, questioned how Dealy could’ve missed the blood in the room and noted that he gave homicide detectives an alias, Anthony Taylor, when they questioned him at police headquarters.
Dealy said he had an open arrest warrant charging him with first-degree assault stemming from an altercation that occurred in 2003. He said he later gave police what he called “my government name.” Shepherd asked him whether police arrested him.
“I went home,” Dealy testified. He said he surrendered a few days later and was jailed until his trial in District Court in December, where he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was spared a jail term. He denied that he got special treatment in exchange for his testimony in court.
Testimony in the case is expected to resume next week with police officers, homicide detectives and others inside the house, including the victim’s great aunt.