Bicyclist convicted of shooting motorist
Aug. 27, 1998




by J.D. Prose

,

Staff Writer


August 19, 1998

A Silver Spring man was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Prince George's County Circuit Court jury this week in the slaying of a Wheaton woman last year in Langley Park.

Alejandro Jose Grant, 27, also was convicted of using a handgun in the commission of a felony. He faces life imprisonment without parole for the murder conviction and 20 years in prison for the handgun conviction.

"I'm very pleased with the conviction," said Assistant State's Attorney Fran Longwell following Wednesday's verdict in the Upper Marlboro courtroom of Judge Sheila Tillerson-Adams. Longwell praised the witnesses in the case, especially John T. Fowler and Chinola Jenkins, saying their emotional testimony was "very important."

They and a slew of other witnesses testified Tuesday that Grant nonchalantly walked up to 18-year-old Joy Estrella Enriquez's car last October at University Boulevard and Riggs Road and shot her in the head point-blank following a minor traffic accident.

Clayton Aarons, Grant's public defender, did not dispute that Grant shot Enriquez. But in opening arguments, he asked jurors to reserve judgment on the premeditated murder charge before hearing "all the facts."

Aarons said Grant was struck by another car earlier in the day, reacted quickly and did not deserve to be convicted of first-degree murder.

Tillerson-Adams set sentencing for Sept. 14 and ordered Grant to undergo a mental health evaluation.

Relatives and friends of Enriquez filled three rows and listened intently as witnesses graphically recounted watching the Montgomery College student being shot and killed around 4 p.m. on Oct. 8.

"She was just scared," Fowler said of Enriquez, who moments earlier had accidentally bumped Grant's bicycle and knocked him over while he tried to cross the busy intersection.

Enriquez meekly asked if Grant was all right, and started to get out of her car, but stopped and stayed in the driver's seat when Grant began screaming, Fowler said.

Jumping up from the witness stand, Fowler recounted how Grant yelled, "You don't know me! You don't know me!" at Enriquez before he "shot her just like she was a cockroach."

Fowler said he and his fiancé, Jenkins, were sitting in a car heading east opposite Enriquez on University Boulevard when Grant approached Enriquez's 1985 Honda Accord.

Jenkins testified that Grant was "very, very angry" and screaming at Enriquez before he reached into a backpack and pulled out a small silver pistol.

"She never said a word," Jenkins said. "He just shot her in the head. I was devastated. I couldn't believe what I saw."

Grant calmly walked back to his bicycle, which was still lying in the road, and began to pedal away, Jenkins said. She and Fowler followed Grant into a nearby parking lot, where they saw him put his bike into a dumpster.

Fowler said he drove back toward Riggs Road after Grant saw the couple following him and brandished his gun. Fowler and Jenkins notified county police officers on the scene, who chased Grant across University Boulevard and behind a bowling alley before arresting him.

Another witness, Ann McGuiness, testified that she reached for her cell phone to call 911 when Grant toppled over after being struck by Enriquez. However, Grant quickly stood up and brushed himself off, so she hung up the phone, McGuiness said.

"He looked pretty angry and perturbed," McGuiness said. Ignoring passing cars and blaring horns, Grant grabbed a backpack and began walking toward Enriquez, McGuiness said. At that point, McGuiness said, she drove away but with an eerie feeling.

"I thought that he was going to give that driver a very hard time," she said.

Several witnesses described the clothing worn by Grant that day -- a black T-shirt and black shorts -- and testified that he had on headphones and carried a black bag. But at least two witnesses were unable to identify Grant as the shooter as he sat in the courtroom.

County police officers testified, however, that many witnesses positively identified Grant as the shooter about 10 minutes after the incident.

After being led to Grant by Fowler and Jenkins, Officer Charles Hamby chased Grant across University Boulevard toward a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Hamby said Grant dropped his backpack in a trash can and took off his shirt. Assisted by off-duty county Officer Conrad D'Haiti, Hamby caught Grant and subdued him after a struggle.

Officer Thomas Calmon drove Grant to police headquarters and said the suspect was "laid back" during the drive and flirted with a woman in a nearby car.

"He seemed like he didn't have a care in the world," Calmon said.

In opening arguments, Longwell said the evidence, eyewitness accounts and ballistic tests would be enough to convict Grant, even though the gun used in the shooting, a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol, was destroyed by the police department's property division.

"There's no mistake that this is the man who did it," Longwell said.