In October 1991, 81-year-old Edward Cook Sr. was found stabbed to death in his apartment in Leesburg, Virginia. His wife told police she had been gone for a few hours and when she returned, she found his body.
On April 28, 1992, 32-year-old Curtis White was charged with murder and robbery. Cook was married to White’s grandmother, and police said that that White killed him and robbed him of $600 to buy crack cocaine.
During a preliminary hearing, Larry Beale testified for the prosecution under a grant of immunity. Beale said that he went with White to the apartment so White could borrow money from Cook.
Beale, an admitted crack addict, testified that White stabbed Cook and then gave him the knife and Cook’s wallet, which he said he put in a dumpster. Neither was ever found. Beale said that White paid him $200 to remain silent.
By the time White came to trial in May 1993, prosecutors no longer believed Beale was just a bystander who helped dispose of evidence. Beale was indicted on charges of murder and robbery as well.
At White’s trial in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Jerry Buracker, testified that while he was in a jail cell with White prior to trial, White confessed to the killing. Another witness testified that White had purchased crack cocaine shortly after Cook was slain. Residents of the building said they saw White in the area before the murder and not long afterward as well.
On May 27, 1993, a jury convicted White of first-degree murder and robbery.
In December 1993, while White was awaiting sentencing, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Chamblin vacated the convictions and ordered a new trial. The judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to disclose to White’s defense attorney notes taken by police during an interview with Buracker, whose background included a conviction for lying to police about another murder. The notes contained evidence that the judge ruled could have been used to impeach Buracker’s trial testimony.
White went on trial for a second time in April 1994. By then, Beale had been convicted of robbery and acquitted of murder and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
White’s attorneys argued that Beale, who was not called as a witness in the trial, was the real killer and that he lied to police originally to blame the killing on White.
On April 28, 1994, a jury acquitted White and he was released.
– Maurice Possley