Prosecutors drop murder charges against former Whitman student Blaise Uchemadu

Prosecutors+dropped+charges+against+a+former+Whitman+student+in+connection+with+the+December+19+killing+of+a+man+in+Bethesda%2C+citing+a+lack+of+evidence+to+prosecute+the+19-year-old.

Black & White stock photo

Prosecutors dropped charges against a former Whitman student in connection with the December 19 killing of a man in Bethesda, citing a lack of evidence to prosecute the 19-year-old.

By Ethan Schenker

Prosecutors dropped all charges against former Whitman student Blaise Uchemadu in connection with the December 19 killing of a man in downtown Bethesda, citing a lack of evidence to prosecute the 19-year-old, according to a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office and Uchemadu’s attorney.  

Uchemadu was one of three Whitman students accused of killing 33-year-old Lawrence Richard Wilson Jr., whom police found dead in a stairwell at the Shops of Wisconsin retail area on December 20. 

Joshua Wright, 17, Antonio Lawrence, 16, and Uchemadu each faced charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. However, prosecutors declined to indict Uchemadu at a hearing on February 25, the deadline for them to do so.

Any evidence against Uchemadu was not substantial enough to warrant continuation of the case, said Lauren DeMarco, the Director of Public Affairs for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. 

“There’s insufficient evidence to go forward on Blaise’s charges,” DeMarco said. “However, the case is still under investigation, and if new evidence comes to light implicating him, the State’s Attorney’s Office reserves the right to file new charges.”

Prosecutors have indicted Lawrence and Wright on at least one charge, and the two suspects will stand trial in September, DeMarco said.

In charging documents, detectives alleged that Uchemadu, Wright and Lawrence planned to rob the victim of two ounces of marijuana during an arranged purchase. The documents said that security camera footage indicated that the three teenagers and the victim entered a stairwell outside the shopping center, but only the three emerged 17 minutes later. 

According to a statement from prosecutors at a bond hearing, the victim was stabbed multiple times and his throat was slit. Charging documents identified Lawrence as the assailant, and prosecutors alleged that Uchemadu handed Lawrence a knife and told him to “be careful” before the robbery took place. For the next two months, Uchemadu was held at the Montgomery County Detention Center without bond pending indictment. 

However, after examining the evidence produced in court, lawyers for Uchemadu argued it didn’t prove his involvement in the incident. Prosecutors declined to move forward with the charges, and a judge ordered that Uchemadu be released from custody.

“The police eventually reviewed the videos showing this entrance to the stairwell and were able to confirm what Blaise had told them: that he was not involved in anything that happened down there in terms of the victim,” said Laura Kelsey Rhodes, one of Uchemadu’s attorneys. “By then, the police had confirmed that his social media, texts or anything else didn’t show any planning or any involvement in what the two others did or may have done that evening.”

“Not being able to finish the semester and the school year was truly devastating to him.”

— Laura Kelsey Rhodes, one of Uchemadu’s attorneys

Uchemadu was not allowed to return to Whitman due to the charges, Rhodes said. The former senior was not given schooling for the two months he spent at the detention facility, the attorney added. 

“The fact that Blaise has never had any criminal or juvenile charges against him should have been a signal to the judge that he was not a danger to the public — especially when any evidence against him specifically was negligible,” Rhodes said. “Not being able to finish the semester and the school year was truly devastating to him.” 

Uchemadu filed for the case’s expungement from his record on March 8, according to court records. 

Rhodes said that the past two months greatly disappointed Uchemadu. 

“I think the fact that he was held without bond for two months and taken out of high school and not given any schooling at all at the county jail is a travesty,” Rhodes said. “It is something that this county should be ashamed of.” 

 

A previous version of this story incorrectly noted that Blaise Uchemadu was 18 years old at publication time. Uchemadu turned 19 on February 21. The Black & White regrets the error.