- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

Witnesses in the trial of a homeless tree trimmer accused of killing a priest testified yesterday about finding the priests body in his blood-smeared rectory bedroom of the Mother Seton Parish at Germantown, Md., but none of the testimony so far directly links defendant Robert Paul Lucas to the crime.
Church secretary Linda Cunningham said she went to the rectory when Monsignor Thomas Martin Wells, 56, failed to appear as customary for daily 8 a.m. mass June 8. It was most unusual, she said, because he always arrived early. She called to him as she approached his sitting room and bedroom.
"I saw Monsignors body on the floor," Mrs. Cunningham said. "There was quite a lot of dishevelment… . There was quite a bit of blood," and a dresser drawer was on top of the priests head.
Mrs. Cunningham and three parishioners called 911. County police Detective Michael Wahl heard the dispatch and arrived on the scene within a minute. He said he went to the bedroom when no one knew whether Monsignor Wells was dead.
"I touched the victims arm. It was cold, stiff. He was obviously deceased," Detective Wahl said, explaining that he was careful to secure the area so as not to disturb any evidence.
The archdiocese yesterday rejected the opening statement by Lucas attorney, Assistant public defender Brian Shefferman, who said his client was drunk and stabbed the monsignor when he made unwanted sexual advances toward Lucas, 26.
The archdiocese statement said the loss of Monsignor Wells, which was hard enough, was "made all the more difficult by accusations against his integrity."
Another parishioner that morning was Robert Grevine, a teacher in Potomac. Mr. Grevine evoked chuckles of agreement among other church members when he said he and his wife often had Father Wells over for dinner and sometimes, Monsignor Wells "would invite himself."
Out for a daily 5 a.m. run on June 8, Mr. Grevine said he saw nothing amiss as he ran past the rectory. Returning for daily mass about 7:30 a.m., he and his wife were getting restless when he learned that the priest was still in the rectory.
"We went to the bedroom where Monsignor was," Mr. Grevine said. "Monsignor was on the floor on his back … There was blood all over … I watched the body to see if it was moving. I stood there long enough to see if he was alive."
Police forensics investigator David McGill spent nearly four hours on the witness stand, identifying photographs and describing the use of a chemical to reveal some bloodstains that were not readily visible. He also testified about searching for fingerprints and footprints.
"The blood was still wet upon our arrival," he said, later referring to blood soaking into carpets, faintly seen on bathroom tile, leaking down from a stuffed chair onto carpet and mens briefs stained almost totally red that had been flung against a closet door.
Bare footprints — maybe Monsignor Wells, since it is believed he had gone to bed — and boot or shoe prints were found tracking through blood. Officer McGill said the boot-print pattern was distinctive and was traced to a manufacturer and local sales at Wal-Mart stores.


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