Brutal Murders Linked to Espionage, Mafia
As written in the Annapolis, MD Capital
Death Penalty Averted
The brutal murders of a Lake Shore couple were linked to the drug culture, diamonds, the Mafia, espionage and counter-espionage, high technology, terrorism and a Georgia school that allegedly "teaches people how to kill," according to lawyers involved in the trials of two men accused of the killings.
Larry D. Bratt, 31, and Thomas M. Raspa, 30, are being tried simultaneously in separate courtrooms for the murders of John Carback, 29, and his wife Donna, 30, whose bodies were found in their Bussendius Road home on Dec. 21, 1981.
In opening arguments yesterday, lawyers and the testimony of witnesses, many of them transported here from Georgia, will piece together a bizarre chain of events that led to assassination-style killings of the couple.
Bratt is on trial before a six-man, six-woman jury in Circuit Court Judge Raymond G. Thieme's courtroom. Deputy State's Attorney Gerald K. Anders is prosecuting the defendant, described as a former business associate of Carback.
Anders said that business relationship began to deteriorate in 1981, and Bratt "began to meticulously plan the murders."
"Mr. Bratt is a very unusual Man," Anders said in his opening statement. "He lives in a very unusual world—a world of drugs, a world of diamonds... He sent two men... ostensibly to do a drug deal. He sent them there with a machine gun to assassinate John and Donna Carback."
Anders, giving only hints of the nature of the upcoming testimony, said the trial will "weave a very complicated story" that will depict Bratt as "a man capable of anything."
The prosecuting attorney said witnesses will testify that Bratt masterminded the killings, hired someone to modify the machine gun used in the killings, and hired the co-defendants, Raspa and a third man, to kill the couple.
The third defendant, Joe Bill Row, 34, is in custody in Odessa, Texas, where he is fighting extradition. Row allegedly was the "trigger man" who was introduced to the Carbacks—on the night of their deaths—as a new cocaine supplier. Bratt's defense attorney, Edwin Marger of Georgia, said "there is a very big difference of opinion in this case."
"In addition to any possible world in which Mr. Bratt lives, the evidence will show a very 'other' world out there—one of espionage and counter-espionage, terrorism and high technology."
Marger said one of the state's witnesses is involved in "a secretive company" involved in "very sophisticated listening devices which deals with tracing telephone calls made by terrorists."
In first-day testimony at Bratt's trial, John Carback's father Richard told the jury that he went to the couple's home after his son failed to show up for work at the family-owned marina and he learned that Mrs. Carback also had not gone to work at her job with the Chessie Railroad system.
Carback said he tried to call the house, but got no answer. When he arrived at the house, no one answered his knock. He became even more suspicious when he noticed that no smoke was visible from the woodstove chimney but the couple's cars were in the driveway.
He said he found his son on the dining room floor and Mrs. Carback was lying at the kitchen doorway.
Carback struggled to remain composed when Anders asked him to identify photographs of the couple, and other spectators in the courtroom began to week quietly.
Carback also explained an elaborate burglar alarm system in the house, which included "carpet traps," activated by a switch in the master bedroom, that would detect movement in the house. The alarm system was off when Carback entered the house.
County police Detective Gary L. Barr, an evidence technician, testified that 14 weapons were recovered from strategic locations throughout the house, including three that had been stashed under the couple's bed. Police also recovered 48 pounds of high-grade marijuana stored in trash bags in the attic, and cocaine and paraphernalia which was found on the dining room table along with Chinese food from a take-out restaurant and several beer cans.
Dr. Dennis Smyth, as assistant state medical examiner, testified that John Carback had been shot four times and died instantly from a wound to the back of the neck that severed his spinal cord. He also was shot above the lip, and that would fractured his teeth and passed through his neck.
Mrs. Carback had been shot three times in the abdomen, head and arm. She also had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest and abdomen, and her jaw was broken on both sides. The stab wounds apparently were inflicted when Mrs. Carback was either dead or near death from the gunshot wounds, Smyth said.
A post-mortem trace-metal test also showed that John Carback had held a gun in his right hand, but police never recovered the weapon. Police could not say whether any of the bullets recovered from the bullet-riddled house were fired by Carback.
In Judge Bruce C. Williams' courtroom at the opposite end of the courthouse, testimony in Raspa's trial is being heard by a jury of seven women and five men.
Deputy State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee is prosecuting the case, and Raspa is being defended by Baltimore attorney Richard Karceski.
Both prosecutors acknowledge that the Carbacks were extensively involved in drug trafficking, but Weathersbee said "whether that be true or not, they didn't deserve to die in such a manner."
Karceski, profiling the parade of witnesses to testify, said the prosecution witnesses have in common a connection with a Georgia school "that teaches people how to kill, believe it or not." He was referring to an anti-terrorist training school operated by Col. Mitchell Warbell.
Both trials resume today and are expected to continue through this week.