In a marathon of a preliminary hearing set to stretch out over three days, Judge Thomas Motley found probable cause Wednesday that Alex Cater is responsible for the December 2011 stabbing death of Leroy Studevant.
Studevant was found dead in Marvin Gaye Park the morning of Dec. 31, 2011. His pants, shoes, and socks were wet. A t-shirt, two black jackets, and a broken knife blade lay under him. A belt was around his neck.
The next day, Jan. 1, 2012, Studevant’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. It was the first homicide of 2012.
An investigator from the Public Defender’s Service testified at the preliminary hearing that Studevant, Cater, and Cater’s mother and uncle were all together the evening of Dec. 30.
Charging documents say the foursome had gathered to play cards and drink. Carter left the apartment with his uncle and Studevant late that night, or early in morning of Dec. 31. The three walked together towards a Metro station. Also in the early morning hours of Dec. 31, two witnesses heard or saw a suspicious situation involving three men. One of the witnesses reported hearing a man scream; the other “heard a big cracking noise” and saw two men standing over a third.
Dybdahl said Cater had nothing to do with that situation: on the walk to the Metro Studevant encountered people he seemed to know and broke off from Cater’s group to join the other, Dybdahl said.
When Cater was arrested just days later on a paternity support warrant, officers noticed a jacket with blood on it hanging by the door. Test results showed that some of the blood was Studevant’s, leading police to arrest Cater on a charge of second-degree murder while armed.
But Dybdahl said that that evidence did not make a murder case and that there was no evidence that Cater was in Marvin Gaye Park when Studevant was killed.
Dybdahl said his investigation had revealed that Studevant, Cater, and the others had been drinking heavily while playing cards and that, after leaving the card game, Studevant had stumbled and fallen, striking his face and injuring himself. Cater helped Studevant up, Dybdahl said, and blood from Studevant’s injuries in the fall rubbed onto Cater’s jacket.
“There is an explanation for it that has nothing to do with homicide,” he said.
Motley said he agreed with Dybdahl in part, and that if he were making a decision on the basis of reasonable doubt he would find the defendant not guilty. However, deciding probable cause, which bears a lesser burden of proof, “is a horse of a different color,” he said.
The hearing began shortly before noon Tuesday. Motley excused attorneys Tuesday evening when the case had not yet wrapped up. He recalled it Wednesday afternoon, but again ran out of time at the end of the day to complete the proceeding. Parties are due back Thursday morning to discuss Cater’s detention.
Rebecca Zisser contributed to this report.
Note: Police records identified Cater also as “Alex Carter.” Dybdahl said that that name was likely an error and is not associated with Alex Cater. We’ve updated the case page to reflect that information.