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Jury hears opening arguments in murder case

La Plata, MD - A Charles County Circuit Court jury heard opening arguments Monday, March 30 in the first-degree murder trial of Bruce Matthew Lyles Jr., 29 of Waldorf, before Judge Amy J. Bragunier..

Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis Granados detailed how Michael Milstead, “a devoted father, boyfriend and son,” was killed by a single gunshot to the back of the head and thrown into the trunk of his girlfriend’s 2009 Chevy Malibu, which was then set on fire.

“Who did this?” Granados asked. “He’s sitting in this courtroom.” Granados pointed to Lyles.

The prosecutor detailed how Michael and his brother, Marcus Milstead, went to Allen’s Acres in Hughesville July 14, 2012 to attend a birthday party for a friend. The defendant, nicknamed “Boogie,” was beaten up at that party, he said, beaten so badly, in fact, he had to have dental work afterward.

The defendant went “up the hill” an area so-called by locals in the area, to his car. He returned to the party with his cousin where he ran  into Michael and Marcus Milstead.

“The defendant has words with the two men,” Granados stated. “Marcus, who has a short fuse, punches Lyles’ cousin in the face.”

“The defendant tells the two brothers, ‘you were with those guys [who beat me up]’ and chases him up the hill. Twelve hours later, Michael was found dead,” he added.

The prosecutor said on July 15, which was a Sunday morning, Michael’s girlfriend was preparing to go to work when Michael called her. He drove her to work and then borrowed her car to go see his son.

“Michael only talked to one other person that morning,” Granados said. “He called his brother Marcus and told him he was going up on the hill and see Boogie to tell him, ‘I’m not in this.’ Michael tried calling his girlfriend at 11:11 a.m., but she was at work and didn’t answer. By 11:34, his body was found.”

He said a local resident riding his bike saw the car in the woods and called the Charles County Sheriff’s Office to report a suspicious vehicle. When officers arrived, they found blood on the front driver’s fender and wheel and a small pool of blood near the trunk.

They also reported the car had some type of material poured on the exterior and the windows were dark and they couldn’t see inside. When they opened the door of the vehicle, smoke began pouring out. Officers smelled the strong odor of gasoline in the vehicle. When they popped the truck they found Michael Milstead dead inside from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Granados maintained that the victim was not shot there, but had been, in fact, killed up on “the hill,” was dragged to his girlfriend’s car, placed in the trunk and driven to a remote spot on Piney Church Road and set on fire. He added that because a Chevy Malibu is airtight, the fire smoldered out.

Granados said the state would prove that gravel evident on the victim’s lower back and shoulder came from Lyles’ driveway up on the hill where he was dragged to the car. He also told the jury that no weapon has been found, but that cell phone records place Lyles in the area during the time span the murder is determined to have taken place.

Police found a single 9 mm shell casing in Lyles’ driveway.

Defense attorney David Simpson asked the jury not to be swayed by sympathy or prejudices.

“Your job is to be finders of facts in this case,” he said. “This wasn’t a vendetta between the two of them. Two other men beat him down. There are no phone calls between my client and the deceased in this case. The motive is shaky to begin with. There are no eye witnesses. No one will say he had a gun.”

Testimony will resume Tuesday, March 31.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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