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Hearing held in case of 2 charged with felony murder

October 27, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Although co-defendants charged in the March 14 shooting death of Jonathan M. Dennis say the other is to blame, it became clear to police that only one gun fired the fatal shot, Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said during a suppression hearing Tuesday.

The hearing, which began Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court, was held to determine whether statements made to police by two men indicted on felony murder charges should be excluded from their trials in the shooting death of Dennis, 19, of Waynesboro, Pa.

The hearing is to resume this morning.

Tyshawn Jones, 23, whose last known address before his arrest was 113 S. Locust St. in Hagerstown, and Azaniah Blankumsee, 26, whose last known address before his arrest was 658 N. Prospect St. in Hagerstown, were indicted on felony murder charges and related counts in connection with Dennis' death at a Washington Gardens Apartments & Townhouses courtyard in the east end of Hagerstown.

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Michael said that witnesses identified Blankumsee as firing a .380-caliber handgun at Dennis, and shell casings were found matching that gun, leading police to believe that Blankumsee was the gunman.

He said, however, that over the course of the investigation, Jones, after first denying he was in the courtyard on the night of the shooting, admitted to police that he shot a .22-caliber handgun into the air that night.

It is that statement that the defense wants excluded from the trial.

"After an autopsy, as shocking as it was, a .22-caliber bullet was recovered from Mr. Dennis' body," Michael said.

A .22-caliber handgun was found at Antietam Creek after a March 17 incident in which Jones fled to the creek after a dispute at Weis Markets on Eastern Boulevard, Detective Cristopher Kayser testified.

Jones' attorney, Michael Allen Wilson, put Jones on the witness stand.

Jones testified that he was confused by an agreement drafted by a prosecutor which would have granted him immunity from a handgun charge related to the March 17 incident if he was up front about his whereabouts on the night of the homicide.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler, who drafted the letter, testified that the agreement became "null and void" after Jones denied he was in the courtyard, despite evidence that he was there.

Kayser testified that on May 25, Blankumsee was taken to police headquarters after being arrested. He testified that Blankumsee told police that Jones and another man had been in the courtyard and "started firing guns at a nearby group of people."

Blankumsee's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Stephen Musselman, argued that his client should not have been arrested on a warrant that charged him with felony murder since police had discovered by that time a .22-caliber gun fired the fatal shot.

"We felt that the warrant was valid at the time and should stay in effect," Lt. Richard Johnson testified, after saying that the investigation was ongoing at the time.

After the hearing, Assistant Public Defender, Brian Hutchison, co-counsel for Blankumsee, would say only that he was trying to have statements suppressed.

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