Melvin Smith, charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of former girlfriend Tranice Richardson last year, made more than 1,400 telephone calls to Richardson in the four days before her death, prosecutors said Monday.
With Assistant State's Attorneys Lindell K. Angel and Kelly Bruton having built their case against Smith in large part on testimony from eyewitnesses to the events of July 8, 2011, Monday's testimony in Frederick County Circuit Court focused on Smith's behavior in the days leading up to the shooting.
According to records from three phones Smith is alleged to have used, 1,443 calls were made to three numbers associated with Richardson -- her cellphone, home phone and the phone at the home of her mother, Mary Ann Powell.
The calls began late in the evening hours of July 4, and the last call was placed at 6:11 p.m. July 8, a little more than an hour before Smith is accused of shooting and killing Richardson as she walked from her Orchard Terrace Apartment with her son, Keanan Richardson.
According to several witnesses, Smith believed Richardson was cheating on him. Smith's mother, Isabelle Smith, said her son was staying with her during the four days before Richardson's death, and many of the phone calls were placed from her home phone. Smith, who said she believed Richardson was seeing several other men, described her son as despondent.
"He was very depressed," she said. "He wouldn't come out of his room. He was crying a lot."
Smith is also charged with stalking and telephone misuse.
A number of text messages introduced into evidence also suggested that Smith believed Richardson was seeing at least one other man. They included one where the texter accused her of covering the windows of her apartment to hide what was going on inside.
Detective Rob Marker testified under cross examination by defense attorney Stephen Musselman that it was impossible to determine whether the texts came from Smith because of a phenomenon known as text spoofing, where someone can make a text appear as if it came from another number.
Dr. Carol Allen of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner also took the stand Monday, describing in detail seven gunshot wounds on Richardson's body -- two on her head, one on her left cheek, one on her back, one on her breast and two on her right arm, one of which she described as a graze wound.
Allen said one of the shots to Richardson's head passed through her brain stem, rendering her immobile and likely causing her death.
"They are fatal injuries," Allen said of injuries to the stem of the brain.
But Allen said real-life autopsies are unlike those shown on crime dramas, typically not allowing investigators to recreate a murder scene with respect to the sequence of the wounds or the positions of the killer and the victim.
"Victim-assailant interactions are very complex in real time," Allen said. "It becomes very difficult to actually recreate that without seeing it."
A significant part of the day's proceedings dealt with issues involving two jurors. Judge Theresa Adams granted a defense motion and dismissed one juror, a young woman, after she said that she knew witness Lajeszine Holland, who testified Friday. The woman was the third juror dismissed from the case so far.
"If the information came out, I could not assume that it would not be prejudicial to Mr. Smith," Adams said. "She did the right thing by bringing this information to the court's attention."
Another issue surfaced at the end of the day when witness Rosa Snowden, Smith's aunt, revealed that she had met and socialized with a woman on the jury during a cookout at Snowden's sister's house in 2010. Snowden said Smith's aunt and two of his sisters were also at the cookout.
"I believe she recognized me when I looked at her," Snowden said of the juror.
Angel said Adams and the attorneys agreed not to address the issue Monday.
"We're going to hold it in abeyance," Angel said.