THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Wednesday, August 24, 1994 TAG: 9408240504 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B3 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY JACK DORSEY, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: NORFOLK LENGTH: Medium: 63 lines
Money isn't what motivated Gilroy Lamar Brunson to help in a murder-for-hire scheme that claimed the life of a Navy officer's wife, the self-described middleman told a military jury.
``Michael Fricke was a friend,'' Brunson explained Tuesday, saying the lieutenant commander had done him a favor while they were stationed at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.
Fricke, standing trial on charges that he ordered his wife's murder six years ago, had overruled the decision of a chief petty officer and approved Brunson's bid to attend a swim school as preparation for the Navy's elite SEAL Team program.
``It was just to help someone I considered a friend,'' Brunson said. He said he helped by finding someone willing to kill Roxanne Fricke, then a 31-year-old homemaker with a 13-month-old son.
Brunson, in his second day on the witness stand, answered questions from some of the 14 senior naval officers sitting as the jury in the court-martial. Questions from the jury are permitted in military court.
``I idolized Lt. Cmdr. Michael Fricke at that time,'' Brunson said, when asked by a juror whether he would falsely accuse the 37-year-old Supply Corps officer. ``We liked sports. He was a good person. I felt a strong relationship with him.''
Brunson, the prosecution's star witness and the only one who ties Fricke to the alleged trigger man, Angelo Rivera, completed two days of testimony Tuesday.
Fricke faces a maximum penalty of death if convicted, but Brunson has been granted immunity from prosecution if he testifies truthfully in the case.
Rivera, 36, of Virginia Beach faced murder charges in Virginia Beach but prosecutors decided against pursuing them because Brunson changed his account of the murder scheme.
Charges against Rivera could be reinstated, depending upon the outcome of Fricke's case.
Brunson said his mother and his attorney, William Robinson of Norfolk, persuaded him to tell the truth about the slaying.
``There will be no more inconsistencies,'' he said.
Brunson on Tuesday acknowledged his guilt, and said Fricke is guilty, too.
``The only innocent one in this is Mrs. Fricke,'' he testified.
Asked by another juror if he feared for his life if Fricke should go free, Brunson said, ``I will feel somewhat threatened. But he should, too. He still has a big payment out there that is owed to Angelo Rivera.''
Brunson said Fricke paid only $5,000 of the $25,000 he promised Rivera.
Fricke's court-martial marks the first time in a decade that the death penalty has been sought in a Navy trial. He would be the only member of the Navy among the eight people sent to the military's death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. ILLUSTRATION: Photo
KEYWORDS: MURDER MURDER FOR HIRE COURT MARTIAL TRIAL by CNB