Jurors were shown photographs of blood-soaked carpet scattered with the red-stained towels Ernest Mbayoh pressed against the back of his dying son, as prosecutors tried to reenact Tuesday what may have happened the night Kevin Mbayo was killed.
The trial continues this week in Montgomery County Circuit Court for James K. Biddinger, 27, who is accused of stabbing Mbayo, 22, at a Germantown townhouse on May 3, 2011. According to court testimony and accounts from Montgomery County Police, an argument over a clogged toilet escalated into a fatal knife fight between Biddinger and Mbayo, who died from a stab wound to his back.
Prosecutors are attempting to prove that Kevin Mbayo’s death was the result of mounting roommate tension and on Tuesday relied on crime scene photos, 9-1-1 recordings, and testimony from emergency responders and witnesses to tell their version of the story.
The defense attorneys attempted to poke holes in the prosecution’s arguments, suggesting instead that Biddinger had acted in self-defense.
Did this really start over a clogged toilet?
Prosecutors tried to present Biddinger, a tenant of the townhouse in the 13000 block of Country Ridge, as a guy feeling threatened by the presence of Kevin Mbayo, who was not on the lease but was a lingering guest of another tenant, his father Ernest Mbayoh.
Kevin Mbayo, who reportedly had a criminal record, spent weeks sleeping on the couch of the townhouse’s common living area. Biddinger’s fiancée Nicole Cooper, who also lived at the townhouse, claimed that they brought their concerns to the landlord.
“He wasn’t going to be afraid of someone in his own house,” Cooper testified, describing what Biddinger reportedly told her.
The defense tried to show that Biddinger’s actions were borne of instinctive self-defense.
His friend Stephanie Johnson testified Tuesday that she was there the night the two men fought. Johnson said that she, Biddinger and his fiancee had returned to the townhouse after a night of playing corn hole at Hard Times Cafe. She said she needed to use the bathroom upstairs but found there was no toilet paper. According to Johnson's account, Biddinger sought toilet paper in another bathroom only to find it was clogged, stinking and unusable — sparking the initial confrontation between Biddinger and Mbayo.
When she described the fight, Johnson presented Mbayo as the aggressor and claimed she had to put Mbayo in a chokehold and pull him away from Biddinger, whom she said remained seated on the arm of a couch after the fight. Johnson testified that Mbayo lay propped against her legs and feet. She felt something wet against her clothes.
“I looked down and noticed it was blood,” Johnson said Tuesday, telling jurors that Mbayo's blood got on to her pants and shoes. She said she tried to apply pressure to his back, an attempt to stop the bleeding.
Cooper, Biddinger’s fiancée, described seeing the scuffle and watching Johnson break up the fight. Cooper testified that Mbayo’s father came into the room and upon seeing his son bleeding and lying on the ground allegedly threatened to harm Johnson, Cooper and Biddinger if they did not leave.
A Montgomery County Police officer and a paramedic on Tuesday described seeing Ernest Mbayoh trying to stop his son’s bleeding wounds when they arrived at the scene. Kevin Mbayo was eventually transported to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Biddinger, his fiancée and his friend Johnson left the townhouse in Johnson’s vehicle before police arrived. They called 9-1-1 on the way to Walmart, where they decided to drop Biddinger off, according to court testimony Tuesday.
“I didn’t want James to run from it,” Johnson said, “but he didn’t want to run from it.”
Meanwhile, a third tenant, Miles Edward Willis, who lived in the basement of the townhouse described overhearing the entire fight upstairs. He called 9-1-1 twice over the course of the evening. The recordings were played for the jury on Tuesday.
Wilis said he did not see the fight.
“I didn’t want to go upstairs and somehow get drawn into it,” Willis testified Tuesday.
Prosecutors could rest its case Thursday, Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Carol A. Crawford said Tuesday.
The trial is expected to last through the week, with Judge Robert A. Greenberg presiding.