CHARLES TOWN – The Charles Town woman shot in the head last month as she tried to keep Elliott De John Lansdowne out of her North West Street apartment minutes earlier had joined him on the front porch outside her building to smoke a cigarette and talk.
But that conversation on the night of Aug. 24 turned into an argument between the two and Lansdowne, 28, grew irritated at Taylor Pond, then angry when she threw a sweatshirt at him. After Pond retreated to her upstairs apartment, he followed her and pointed a firearm at her head.
That’s when Pond said: “Elliott, get out of here with that gun.” She slammed her apartment door, and Lansdowne “almost instantly” fired through it, according to Charles Town Police Department investigator Corporal Alissa Meeks, who testified at last week’s preliminary hearing that resulted in the charge against Lansdowne being sent to Jefferson County Circuit Court.
Lansdowne, being held without bond at the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, faces a life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.
Also charged in connection with the shooting is Emma Marie Phillips, 20, of Bakerton, who is accused of aiding Lansdowne after the shooting. She is being held in lieu of a $100,000 bond and faces a maximum prison term of five years for felony accessory.
At the Sept. 4 hearing, Charles Town Police Patrolman Todd Kent testified he came upon Pond’s body lying behind the entryway of her apartment, a bullet hole in her head and a hole in the door that appeared to be from a bullet.
Kent said he noticed a spent shell casing on the floor outside Pond’s apartment door. He said he heard two distraught female voices from inside the apartment – the voices of Pond’s roommate and her friend who’d both been inside when the shooting occurred.
Meeks testified that Lansdowne admitted under questioning to shooting Pond. He told police he had heard a scream inside the apartment and thought the bullet had struck someone.
At the hearing, Lansdowne’s attorney Don Wrye asked Meeks whether the pistol could have accidentally discharged because Pond slammed the door against it. The detective said Lansdowne did not mention that to her.
Witnesses at the apartment house identified Lansdowne as the shooter, Meeks said. They described an argument that erupted that evening between Lansdowne and Pond — after Lansdowne had been arguing with Pond’s neighbor, the woman living across the stairwell from Pond.
Police said in court documents that Lansdowne had a sexual relationship with the neighbor, who recently learned that she may have been pregnant with his child, and that Lansdowne and the woman had argued that evening before he went downstairs to a porch to smoke. Pond, who knew Lansdowne, came down and began talking to him.
Lansdowne asked Pond to stop talking. “Pond made a comment to [Lansdowne] that he did not like,” Meeks said.
Then Pond retrieved a sweatshirt that belonged to Lansdowne. Meeks said Lansdowne became offended at how Pond “threw the sweatshirt at him.”
After the shooting, Lansdowne fled the apartment house on foot, crossing West Washington Street, according to testimony form Meeks, who drew on interviews with Lansdowne and Phillips.
Neither Lansdowne nor Phillips, a Jefferson High graduate who attended Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, testified.
Meeks said Phillips didn’t admit to know about the shooting until a third interview when she acknowledged Lansdowne had told her about the killing.
According to police, Lansdowne texted Phillips, his current girlfriend, to pick him up near a pond across from the Charles Town Towers on Augustine Avenue, about three blocks from North West Street apartment.
When Phillips arrived, Lansdowne appeared “very sweaty and seemed kind of agitated,” Meeks said Phillips admitted.
After Lansdowne got into Phillips’ car, “he advised her that he had shot someone and she needed to get about a day’s worth of clothes,” Meeks said.
The couple returned to Tuscawilla Hills, where Phillips gathered some clothes and picked up her young son.
Then the couple left the subdivision, traveling on back roads to avoid police, according to police. Along the way, Phillips stopped at gas stations to buy Lansdowne cigarettes. Meeks testified that she obtained videotapes from the gas stations that verify those stops.
Police arrested the pair at Lansdowne’s parents’ home near Jefferson, Md. Police recovered a 9mm Ruger pistol with the couple.
Lansdowne said he planned to hide from police at his grandmother’s house in Herndon, Va., Meeks said.
Meeks interviewed Lansdowne and Phillips separately at the Frederick County (Md.) Sheriff’s Department.