Woman's dying words aid Pr. George's murder conviction
As she lay in a Suitland apartment, dying from four gunshot wounds, Naomi Cook called 911 on her cellphone and identified her assailant to a police dispatcher.
"Do you know who shot you?" the dispatcher asked.
"Mush," she replied.
Cook, 32, was taken to a hospital, where she died hours later. On Wednesday, a Circuit Court jury in Upper Marlboro deliberated for an hour and two minutes before convicting "Mush" -- otherwise known as Vincent T. Thomas, 38 -- of first-degree murder and a weapons violation.
Jurors were so confident of their verdict that they declined to order lunch, even though they started deliberations at 11:30 a.m.
The audiotape of the 911 call was a key piece of evidence presented by Assistant State's Attorney Dorothy Engel during the two-day trial.
Cook was shot shortly before 3 a.m. on April 11, 2009, in an apartment in the 3800 block of Regency Parkway. People were using drugs in the apartment, authorities said.
One state witness said Cook and Thomas engaged in a verbal argument, after which Thomas stormed out of the apartment, then returned and knocked on the door.
A woman let Thomas in, and he made a beeline for Cook, who was sitting in the living room, according to the state's case. From a distance of a few feet, Thomas fired four shots, then ran away. Each of the shots struck Cook.
Cook made her way to the bathroom, where she called 911. Cook provided the address she was at and twice identified "Mush" as her attacker.
After a minute or two, Cook is heard gasping for breath. She the goes silent for a few moments. The dispatcher again asks Cook who shot her, and she replies, "Mush."
"Morris?" the dispatcher asks.
"Mush," she replies, then spells the name. "M-u-s-h."
Paramedics arrived and took Cook, who was shot in the torso and one of her arms, to Prince George's Hospital Center, where she died about 4 1/2 hours later.
Witnesses told police that "Mush" was Thomas and identified Thomas's photo from a photo array, according to court records.
When police arrested Thomas at his Suitland apartment, there was little doubt he was "Mush." Thomas has tattoos on both of his biceps. Both read "Mush." One of the tattoos also depicts a serpent draped around a dagger.
Thomas did not testify during the trial. Circuit Court Judge Beverly J. Woodard scheduled sentencing for April 9.
It was not the first time Prince George's prosecutors have used the final words of a homicide victim to convict the victim's killer.
In September, 2008, county prosecutors played for a jury a recording of the 911 call made by DeWayne Dunmore after he was shot in the parking lot of a Forestville office park. Dunmore told a police dispatcher he'd been shot by Benjamin Perry.
Perry was convicted of second-degree murder and two weapons violations.
-- Ruben Castaneda
March 11, 2010; 7:20 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda
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