- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blood of an Eastern Market vendor that was found on the jacket of the vendor’s suspected killer could have gotten on the man’s coat after the vendor drunkenly fell down a set of stairs and the other man helped him up, according to a defense attorney in the second-degree murder case.

The assertions were made Tuesday during a preliminary hearing held in D.C. Superior Court for Alex Jerome Cater, 31, who stands accused in the strangulation and stabbing death of Leroy Studevant.

Though he was considered a suspect days after the killing, Mr. Cater was charged this month in Studevant’s December death after DNA tests concluded that two bloodstains on Mr. Cater’s jacket were from Studevant, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

Studevant, 56, and Mr. Cater, who are relatives, were at an apartment drinking and playing cards with two other family members the night before Studevant’s body was found near a pathway in Marvin Gaye Park in Northeast on the morning of Dec. 31, according to testimony by investigators in court.

“The decedent had fallen a couple of times and Mr. Cater helped him get up,” Thomas Dybdahl, the public defender representing Mr. Cater, said in court. “That would explain how the blood could be on Mr. Cater’s jacket and not be related to the homicide.”

Police found the body around 7:30 a.m. and immediately called homicide investigators to the scene, Detective Ray Shields testified Tuesday. A belt had been wrapped tightly around Studevant’s neck, he had three stab wounds and he was shirtless while lying on a broken knife blade, according to testimony.

The morning of Dec. 31, a police spokesman called the death a homicide. Police later said the death was not ruled a homicide by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner until Jan. 1 and as a result was counted as the first homicide of 2012.

The night before Studevant was found dead, he, Mr. Cater and two others were all “pretty drunk,” an investigator for the defense, Rachel Primo, testified. Studevant, Mr. Cater and another man at some point left the apartment and headed for the Minnesota Avenue Metro station. Mr. Cater and the other witness said Studevant fell down some stairs during the walk, prosecutors said.

As the three people were walking, Studevant saw several people he knew and left the other two men to talk to them, Mr. Cater told police, according to a sworn affidavit. Mr. Cater and the other man later took the Metro to New Carrollton, where they spent time with friends, according to testimony.

On Jan. 2, police went to Mr. Cater’s apartment to arrest him on outstanding paternity support charges and noticed his black jacket had blood on it. The jacket was tested and two of the stains were determined to be the blood of Studevant. One other bloodstain did not belong to Studevant and another could not be conclusively linked to him, according to testimony Tuesday.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue Wednesday afternoon.