Jury deliberates in Frederick home invasion case

Jurors in the case of a Frederick man charged in an armed home invasion robbery began deliberations Friday after hearing from the state’s final witnesses.

For nearly eight hours, those appointed to the jury deliberated the case without reaching a decision.

Jerame Duvall, 23, is the first of five area men to be tried in connection with the Aug. 18, 2011, robbery, during which police said Kristopher Ritzell was held at gunpoint and forced inside the house where he was staying with a friend.

Ritzell got away from the robbers, but they made off with a safe from the house containing jewelry. The five suspects were arrested a short time later after Frederick police officers stopped their SUV based on witness descriptions. Police found the safe, handguns and marijuana in the car.

Jurors heard testimony Friday from Ritzell’s neighbors, Christopher and Natalie Connell.

Christopher Connell said Ritzell woke him up ringing the doorbell, and when Connell came downstairs to answer the door he saw a man get out of the SUV and point a gun at him and Ritzell.

Connell said he dropped to the ground, and when he got back up, the men were getting into the SUV and leaving. He told Ritzell police were on the way, he said, and asked him to go back to his house.

Natalie Connell said she called 911 after her husband told her a man with a gun was outside. She ran away from the front window after she saw the gun and heard her husband telling her to get down. She then called 911 again.

Prosecutors played the frantic calls for the jury.

“What if he gets shot, Chris?” Natalie Connell asked after her husband told Ritzell to go back home.

“What if we get shot,” Christopher Connell replied.

Neither could identify Duvall as being one of the people in the SUV, describing only four or five black men.

Defense attorney Eric Schaffer maintained that the prosecution has no evidence tying Duvall to the crime. No witnesses placed him at the scene, and DNA analysis of the confiscated guns was inconclusive. Schaffer said the only crime the evidence shows Duvall is guilty of is possession of marijuana. Police found marijuana in Duvall’s waistband after his arrest.

Prosecutors Jason Shoemaker and Michael Dempsher focused throughout the three-day trial on establishing the facts and evidence in the case and trying to prove Duvall was at the scene.

Also charged in the robbery are Montrey Dangelo Harrison, 21, of Frederick, Forrest Wendell Offord, 26, of Dickerson, Devin Lamar Harris, 23, of Brunswick and Isaiah Michael Martin, 24, of Frederick.

A verdict was not reached by deadline.

Staff writer Cara R. Anthony contributed to this report.

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