February 20, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Judge upholds murder charge in roommate stabbing case
1630 Fuller St., N.W., The Mozart, gay news, Washington Blade

1630 Fuller St., N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Wednesday ruled that prosecutors demonstrated probable cause exists that David Jamal Wilson, 21, allegedly stabbed his 72-year-old roommate to death in the D.C. apartment they shared.

Police found Howard Venable dead in his apartment at the Mozart Apartments at 1630 Fuller St., N.W. on Feb. 2. The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Wilson with second degree murder while armed on Feb. 4 after D.C. police homicide detectives discovered he used credit cards he allegedly stole from Venable to withdraw more than $600 in cash from ATM machines in District Heights, Md.

During a Feb. 20 preliminary hearing, Judge Stuart Nash ruled that prosecutors provided sufficient evidence to show probable cause and “substantial probability” that Wilson murdered Venable. The ruling clears the case for trial, which is expected to take place later this year.

Shortly after Wilson’s arrest, two sources told the Blade that Venable and Wilson were having an affair and that Venable was providing financial support for Wilson. At Wednesday’s hearing, D.C. police homicide Det. King Watts testified that Wilson and another witness told police that Venable was paying Wilson for sex.

The Washington Post reported that Wilson’s attorney, Jacqueline Cadman, stated at the hearing that Venable and Wilson had been in a longstanding “abusive” sexual relationship since Wilson was a “child.” She called on the court to lower the charge against Wilson to manslaughter because of the abuse, but Nash denied that request, the Post reported.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Holly Schick, the prosecutor in the case, pointed to an autopsy report showing that Venable was stabbed multiple times in the neck and torso and had “defensive” wounds on his hands and arms.

A police arrest affidavit says Wilson initially denied he was staying in the apartment and denied any role in the murder. It says he gave police several conflicting versions of how Venable was killed, including one version that Venable was stabbed by intruders who planned to rob him. The affidavit says Wilson acknowledged Venable had been stabbed before police publicly disclosed the killing involved a stabbing.

In another version, Wilson said he got into a fight with Venable inside the apartment and Venable retrieved a knife from the kitchen and the two struggled before Venable fell and stabbed himself, the affidavit says.

In his ruling, Nash said the autopsy report and other evidence shows the death could not have been caused by Venable accidently stabbing himself.

Cadman argued that police did not present any physical evidence linking Wilson to the murder. She said Wilson gave several versions of what may have happened during a four-hour interrogation session at the police homicide office.

“It is speculation,” she said. “There is no evidence whatsoever that links Mr. Wilson to Mr. Venable’s death.”

She urged Nash to release Wilson from jail while he awaits trial, saying he would not present a risk to the community. She noted that Wilson is married and has three small children, who rely on him for financial support.

Nash declined that request and ordered Wilson held until trial.

Court records show that Wilson’s wife obtained a civil protection order against him in July 2011 after accusing him of assaulting her and presenting what she believed was a threat to their children. Records show the Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Unit issued a stay away order prohibiting Wilson from returning to the home where he and his wife and children had been living.

At Wednesday’s court hearing on the murder charge, defense attorney Cadman said Wilson’s wife was in the courtroom to show her support for him and favored a ruling to allow Wilson’s release on bond.

Judge Nash scheduled a status hearing for May 10.

This story has been updated to reflect that Howard Venable was 72 at the time of his death. D.C. police initially reported that Venable was 68 in a press release in February at the time of the murder, and the Blade reported that age before new information surfaced that Venable was 72.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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