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First degree murder trial enters third day

La Plata, MD - Through ongoing testimony, the first-degree murder trial of Bruce Matthew Lyles Jr., 29 of Waldorf, continued through Wednesday, April 1, as police officers and experts testified regarding the death of Michael Milstead July 15, 2012 before Charles County Circuit Court Judge Amy J. Bragunier.

Officer Roby of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office testified he responded to a call at 11:34 a.m. July 15, 2012 for the report of a car in the woods off Piney Church Road in White Plains. Roby met with the complaintant, James Quade, who noticed the car while riding his bike through the area.

“He thought the vehicle was suspicious,” Roby said.

Roby testified that as he approached the “royal blue, fairly new vehicle,” he noticed that some kind of liquid was poured on the vehicle, evidenced by a film of residue on the exterior of the vehicle. He also noticed blood on the exterior of the vehicle. When other officers arrived, they opened the driver’s side door and smoke began billowing out of the car.

Det. Savoy popped the trunk of the car and found a body inside. Sgt. Stahl checked the man’s vital signs and pronounced him dead.

Savoy testified that before approaching the vehicle he saw blood spots on the front left wheel and front left fender of the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu and the rear bumper had blood pooled on top of the bumper and the tag.

“There was a substance over the entire car,” he added. He said there was a “very strong odor of gas” emitting from the vehicle. Officers also found a gas can in the passenger seat sitting on a pile of clothes, which proved to be the defendant’s.

Defense attorney David Simpson asked Savoy if any other vehicles had been in the area.

“Tire tracks, things of that nature,” Simpson said.

“Not back where the vehicle was at,” Savoy responded.

The officer said the Malibu was put on a rollback tow truck and hauled to the crime lab for further analysis.

Det. Shakespeare of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office testified he interviewed Lyles at the District 3 Station in Waldorf. When questioned about the black Cadillac Lyles was driving the night he was beaten up at Allen’s Acres in Hughesville, Lyles told the detective he didn’t own a black Cadillac. Further investigation revealed the Cadillac belonged to Lyles' mother.

When Simpson asked why he didn’t do forensic work while the Malibu was in the woods, Shakespeare said, “That was not the ideal setting for examining the body.

“It was a hot summer day,” he added. “We couldn’t risk having the evidence compromised by say, a thunder storm.”

Dr. Melissa Brassell from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore said she received the body of Michael Milstead July 16, 2012.

Brassell described Milstead as 6 feet, 8 inches in height and approximately 175 pounds.

“The deceased had a gunshot wound to the head,” she said. “The wound was on the left side of the head just behind the left ear.”

She said the bullet had traveled through the base of the skull and that she extracted the bullet from the sinus bones of the right cheek. Braassell also testified that there were abrasions on the man’s right upper shoulder area and middle lower back.

When Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis Granados asked if the abrasions could have been caused by the dead man being dragged along the surface of a gravel driveway, she admitted that they were.

A forensic expert, Dr. Kim, testified that the bullet extracted from Milstead came from a 9 mm Federal shell. A 9 mm shell casing was found in the driveway of Lyles’ home up on “the hill,” an area occupied by trailers.

“Is that within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty?” Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney John Stackhouse, prosecuting the case with Granados, asked.

“Yes,” the expert testified.

“Is there a test to determine if that bullet came from that casing?” Stackhouse asked.

“No,” came the answer.

“Could it have come from that casing?” Stackhouse asked.

“Possibly,” Kim said.

Closing arguments are expected to take place when the trial resumes Thursday, April 2.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

Artwork by Joseph Norris

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