Homicide ‘Defendants Were Jealous of Victim,’ Prosecutor Says

Thank you for reading Baltimore Witness. Help us continue our mission into 2024.

Donate Now

“They finessed their way into the victim’s life,” said the prosecutor during her opening statement to the jurors on Sept. 6.

Two homicide co-defendants listened as the prosecution presented her opening statement before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Paul E. Alpert, describing how she believed the two men befriended Cordelle Bruce, 31, over the years and then ambushed him for money on Jan. 14, 2020. 

Christopher Brown, 22, and Daran Horton, 23, are charged with first and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, manslaughter, first and second-degree assault, conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, use of a firearm during a felony violent crime, having a loaded handgun on person, illegal possession of a regulated firearm, and having a handgun on person in connection to the fatal shooting of Bruce on the 1100 block of E. Belvedere Avenue. 

Brown, who was 19 years old at the time of the incident, is also charged with possession of a firearm as a minor, while Horton is charged with possession of a firearm. 

The prosecution began opening statements by saying the victim, Cordelle Bruce, was loved and respected by his friends and family.

“The defendants were jealous of the victim,” said the prosecution. The defendants hunted the victim down in Brown’s mother’s car and ambushed the victim, he said.

Brown’s defense counsel, Linda Zeit, began her opening statement by saying her client had nothing to do with the victim’s death. 

The case was built on “speculations,” she said. While witnesses may have seen Brown running from the scene, she said, no one testified to seeing Brown shoot the victim.

Zeit told jurors they would see a video of another potential suspect selling drugs with the victim without Brown being present. 

The victim was shot by someone in a Volvo, said Zeit. However, there was no video of the murder or witnesses. 

Josh Insley, Horton’s defense counsel, like Zeit, argued there was no evidence that linked his client to the murder, pointing out that there were several people seen fleeing the scene.  

The prosecution’s first witness testified to seeing people running between parked cars following the shooting.

She said that around 6:20 p.m., she was driving home from work down the intersection of E. Belvedere and Alameda Avenues. She said she saw sparks and heard what she thought to be gunshots while at a stoplight.

The witness said she heard seven shots and saw someone collapse and someone she believed was shooting. After the victim fell, she said, she thought shots were being fired. When asked if she saw anyone’s face, she responded that she did not. She said she believed that the shooter’s clothing was dark. 

The prosecution focused on the color of the suspects’ clothing, playing a 911 call from a resident reporting that a man had been shot.

The caller said she saw two black men running from the scene. The caller described one man as wearing a gray and blue hoodie while the other had on all black. 

The two suspects, the caller said, escaped in a 4-door dark-colored car.

The primary officer also testified to seeing people running and hearing shots as he canvassed the area the night of the shooting. The primary officer said he immediately requested a medic once he got to the scene and attempted CPR on the victim. 

He said there were no weapons found on the victim. 

A technician testified to recovering several items from the victim’s body, including black gloves, a necklace, a hair pick, and marijuana. 

Five 9mm cartridge cases were also found at the scene; however, no prints were not recovered from the cartridge cases.

The technician concluded his testimony, and Brown and Horton’s trial recessed for the day. 

The trial is scheduled to resume on Sept. 7.

Follow this case