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Shots that killed brother can be heard on tape

June 13, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

After hearing testimony Wednesday that a Halfway man confessed to shooting his younger brother and that the fatal shots were heard on tape, a Washington County District judge found there was enough evidence to send the case to Washington County Circuit Court for trial.

Judge Ralph France's ruling came at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing for Charles Leatherman, 33, who is charged with first- and second-degree murder in the May 15 death of his brother, Ian Leatherman, 22.

The shooting occurred in the Leathermans' home at 11226 Marbern Road in Halfway.

Deputy 1st Class Chris Weaver, an investigator with the Washington County Sheriff's Department, testified that nine bullet holes were found in Ian Leatherman's body, including entry and exit holes.

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He said that when police arrived, they found Ian Leatherman dead on his bed.

An autopsy revealed one bullet lodged in Ian Leatherman's chest, Weaver said.

He said police found five shell casings at the scene.

Weaver testified that cause of death was a gunshot wound, but he said he didn't know which shot was the fatal one.

Weaver testified that Charles Leatherman told police the brothers were addicted to drugs and slept all day. The two woke up at about 6:30 p.m. on May 15 and began arguing because there was "no food, no drugs, no money" in the home, Weaver said.

He said the brothers had a surveillance system set up in the house and that the argument was recorded on a VCR tape.

Charles Leatherman told police that Ian Leatherman got a .270-caliber rifle from his bedroom, pointed it at him and threatened to kill him, Weaver said.

Charles Leatherman was able to wrestle the gun away from Ian Leatherman, Weaver said.

Weaver said he watched the surveillance video, which he said shows Charles Leatherman taking the gun away from his brother.

Weaver testified that the argument continued after Charles Leatherman had the gun.

He said the video went black but the audio kept recording, and five shots could be heard on the tape 20 minutes later.

In an interview with police, Weaver testified, Charles Leatherman said he shot his brother because he "couldn't take it anymore."

He said Charles Leatherman told police he shot his brother four or five times and was standing five to six feet away when the first shot was fired.

Weaver said Ian Leatherman was standing in the doorway of Charles Leatherman's bedroom when he shot him for the first time. He said police found blood splatter and fragments from the shot in the doorway.

Weaver said Charles Leatherman told police that his brother began running to his own bedroom, while he continued firing. He said Charles Leatherman told police that his brother's body became wedged between the wall and bed and that he moved the body onto the bed, where police found him.

Weaver said there was evidence that indicated Ian Leatherman's body had been moved to the bed.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Mark Boyer argued that Ian Leatherman's death was premeditated because Charles Leatherman stated to police that he was fed up.

Brian Hutchinson, Charles Leatherman's public defender, argued that there wasn't enough evidence to try him on anything more than a second-degree murder charge. He said the shots can be heard on the tape but not seen.

Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mark Knight said last month that the shooting happened at least one hour before the 911 call was made.

Weaver said that Charles Leatherman called 911 and that another person who arrived at the house after the shooting also called. Weaver did not know the name of the other person, he said.

Weaver said Charles Leatherman waited to call 911 because he was "looking for something to eat and looking for something to smoke."

France ordered Charles Leatherman to continue to be held without bail.

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long said Wednesday night that the case doesn't qualify for the death penalty because it doesn't have the "aggravating factors" required to seek it.

The maximum penalty for conviction on a first-degree murder charge without aggravating factors is life in prison and the maximum penalty for a second-degree murder conviction is 30 years in prison, according to the Maryland State Commission on Sentencing Policy.

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