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Accused Killer Denies He Shot Armored Car Guard : Crime: Execution slaying at Home Depot took place 25 days after Dean Darnell Slade's parole from prison.

March 02, 1994|THOM MROZEK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

VAN NUYS — Admitting that his testimony may turn out to be a mistake, a prison parolee accused of executing an armored car guard during a robbery in a San Fernando Home Depot store took the witness stand at his trial Tuesday and proclaimed his innocence.

Holding up graphic autopsy photos, defense attorney Bruce Hills conceded that guard Edwin Maldonado "was brutally murdered" on July 20, 1992.

"Would you agree with that?" Hill asked the accused killer, Dean Darnell Slade.

"Yes," Slade responded.

"Did you kill him?" Hill asked.

"No," Slade replied.

Slade, who faces the death penalty if convicted, devoted most of his testimony to outlining his alibi for a jury of seven men and five women in Van Nuys Superior Court.

Slade testified that he was visiting friends and running errands the afternoon that Maldonado was shot in the back of the head by a robber.

The guard had just picked up $82,000--about half in cash and half in checks--and was still inside the Home Depot at 12960 Foothill Blvd. when a gunman ran up behind him and fired. Witnesses said Maldonado had just started to turn around when he was hit. The gunman then put two more bullets into the guard's head as he lay on the ground.

Slade admitted he was previously convicted of manslaughter and had been paroled from state prison only 25 days before the Home Depot robbery.

When he first took the witness stand, Slade told the jury that Hill had in no way coached his answers, adding, "As far as I know, it's the wrong thing to take the stand, being the one accused."

When Hill asked him why he insisted on testifying, Slade paused for nearly a minute and wiped tears from his eyes. "I think basically when this all began, I didn't take it as serious as it was," he said in a wavering voice.

Slade denied telling a man, who testified as a prosecution witness, that he had set up a "lick" to get money so he could purchase a "dope sack."

While his story of what he did on July 20, 1992, was essentially the same as testimony he gave at a preliminary hearing less than one month after the killing, some details of Slade's testimony contradicted the versions given by other witnesses, including that of his mother and a close friend.

In addition, a Home Depot employee who was standing just feet away from Maldonado when he was shot emphatically testified earlier in the trial that Slade was the gunman.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Jonas, who will be cross-examining Slade this afternoon, said he would overlook the contradictions for now.

"If I was going to bother with every inconsistency, we'd be here for a week," the prosecutor said, adding that Slade would have to be Superman to do everything he claims to have done the day of the robbery.

Instead, Jonas said he would focus on Slade's state of mind after being released from prison.

Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday.

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