Miller’s Crossing: Anthony Jerome Miller Convicted in Redwood Trust Double Murders

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Mar. 21, 2007

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Just before 4 p.m. on March 15, as a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury was preparing to render its verdict in the double-murder case against Anthony Jerome Miller, prosecutor Sharon Holback turned to the victims’ family and friends, who were assembled in the courtroom, and said, “Let’s hope for something poetic with a verdict on the Ides of March.” The jurors did indeed hand down a poetic verdict, convicting Miller of two counts of second-degree murder, nearly four years after the April 2003 night when 22-year-old Sean Wisniewski and 31-year-old Jason Convertino were shot to death in Convertino’s Upper Fells Point apartment.

Judge Robert Kershaw, who presided over the nine-day trial, scheduled sentencing for June 8, and each murder count carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. But the jury also acquitted Miller of eight other charges arising from the state’s theory that he went to Convertino’s apartment intending to rob, shoot, and kill the victims. If they had believed the large body of evidence that the crime was premeditated, as the state contended, the jurors would have found Miller guilty of first-degree murder and the other felonies, and he’d be facing two life sentences–and then some.

Miller, 31, was charged last January, after Baltimore Police detective William Ritz took over the lapsed investigation as a cold case in late 2005. Ritz quickly developed evidence that included Miller’s DNA on a latex glove left at the murder scene, a map of the movements of Miller’s cell phone at the time of the crime, business records indicating Miller robbed Convertino, and testimony from Convertino’s next-door neighbor, who was first interviewed by police two and a half years after the slayings.

After the verdict, the two sides made the usual statements. “I believe my client was not guilty, and we’re going to continue to fight to prove his innocence,” said Miller’s attorney, Paul Polansky, who promised to file an appeal. State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman Joseph Sviatko said, “We’ll obviously ask for the maximum” sentence. Holback announced that she was “very happy” with the outcome.

But Convertino’s mother, Pam Morgan of Binghamton, N.Y., says she is disappointed that the jurors didn’t hand down convictions for first-degree murder, gun crimes, and robbery. “I guess I should be grateful for something,” Morgan says of the guilty findings the day after the verdict. “But how do they think the bullets got in the kids’ heads?”

The autopsy revealed that Convertino’s fatal back-of-the-head shot was accompanied by two others, one also to his head and the other to his right arm. Wisniewski died of a single gunshot to the head. A firearms expert testified that the bullets were fired from a .38- or a .357-caliber handgun.

Morgan sees Miller’s conviction as partial justice not only because the verdict wasn’t as comprehensive as she would have liked, but because she remains convinced that Miller did not act alone. She intends to pursue her theory that the killings were a conspiracy, as she has since shortly after the crime. “It’s not really over for me,” Morgan says. “I have to say I’ll definitely not be sitting back on this.”

Scott Henry, a prosecution witness and Wisniewski’s friend and employer, agrees that Miller’s prosecution addresses only a part of the crime’s complexity. “I hope this is only the beginning, because you and I both know there is a lot more to this [case],” Henry told City Paper after his hourlong testimony on March 6. Neither Wisniewski’s family nor the jurors could be reached for comment in time for this article.

Trial testimony described the nightlife milieu in which the murders occurred. Wisniewski worked as Henry’s assistant and handled radio programming for Buzzlife Productions, a concert promoter based in Washington, D.C. At the time, Buzzlife held events on Saturday nights at Redwood Trust, the historic downtown bank-turned-nightclub where Convertino was general manager. Shortly before the murders, Miller had worked briefly at Redwood Trust on the security staff. Convertino worked for Redwood Trust owner Nicholas Piscatelli, but at the time of the murders he was arranging to leave Piscatelli and take the gigs he was booking at Redwood Trust to Bohager’s, another venue that has since closed.

The state’s case was that Miller was hardly employed, working itinerantly at a car wash and as a security guard at a car dealership, and was marrying Tarsha Fitzgerald, a successful older woman, so he needed money to pay for their honeymoon in Mexico. With greed as his motive, the state tried to prove that Miller gunned down Convertino (Wisniewski was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time), stole and pawned his laptop, and fraudulently used his credit card to pay the travel agency. Holback painted Miller as a cunning and deceptive charmer who fooled a lot of people, including Convertino and Fitzgerald. Holback described the latter as Miller’s “living victim.”

Polansky’s defense of Miller was composed solely of four character witnesses, including New Psalmist Baptist Church Bishop Walter Thomas, who testified that the defendant was a religious man who would never commit such atrocities. But Polansky also cross-examined the state’s witnesses in an effort to suggest a vague, alternate theory of the case to jurors: that Piscatelli, not Miller, had a motive to kill Convertino, who was in the process of taking high-profile hip-hop events away from the Redwood Trust. Investigators, Polansky stated in his closing argument, “rushed to judgment” in deciding early in the investigation that Miller was the killer, and suffered from “tunnel vision,” so they “didn’t look at Nick Piscatelli a little more carefully.”

Piscatelli testified as a prosecution witness for 45 minutes on the second day of the trial, March 6. Holback asked him to look at the jury and answer a series of questions about whether he killed Convertino, or had Miller kill him. Piscatelli repeatedly answered “no” to the questions. He also stated that he doesn’t know Miller: “I thought I might recognize him today,” Piscatelli said from the witness stand, “but I do not.” Piscatelli told City Paper for an article last year (“Late Discovery,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 6) that Miller asked him for money to pay for the honeymoon, which Piscatelli declined to lend. “I didn’t really know” Miller, he said then.

“The truth is in the evidence,” Polansky said during the trial, arguing that “this was an execution” and “not a robbery at all,” and that “what happened here is that Jason Convertino crossed the wrong people.”

In addition, Polansky pointed out that Holback made Miller out to be “so slick, so smart,” yet at the same time the evidence against Miller attests to a remarkable level of stupidity. It’s as if Miller “wanted to get caught,” Polansky said, because he “leaves the only evidence that he was there . . . right on the dead man’s bed,” where the glove containing Miller’s DNA was recovered. The evidence also showed that Miller left his fingerprints all over the fruits of the alleged robbery by pawning the laptop at a shop Miller regularly patronized, producing his driver’s license to validate the transaction, and using Convertino’s credit card after the murders.

“Either Anthony Miller did it,” Polansky told jurors, “or somebody went to an awful lot of trouble to make you believe he did it.” Judging by the verdict, the jurors decided Miller did indeed do it–though they didn’t buy the state’s version of how the deed was done.

Late Discovery: A New Twist in the Redwood Trust Double-Murder Case

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Dec. 6, 2006

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“I don’t know why they’re digging into my past,” remarks 56-year old Nicholas Argyros Piscatelli, a local developer and owner of the now-defunct downtown nightclub Redwood Trust. He’s on the phone with a reporter, commenting about the double-murder case involving the club’s former manager, Jason Convertino (pictured, above left), who was shot to death in April 2003 in Convertino’s Fells Point apartment, along with Sean Wisniewski (pictured, above right), who worked for Buzzlife, a nightlife promotions company that held events at Redwood Trust. Suspect Anthony Jerome Miller‘s trial in the case, which turns largely on the presence of DNA consistent with Miller’s found in latex gloves discovered at the crime scene, is scheduled to start in January. But Piscatelli is concerned about recent indications that the case is delving into the possibility that he had something to do with the crime.

“I see what they’re going to do, which is a shame,” Piscatelli continues, referring to Miller’s defense, mounted by attorney Paul Polansky. “Which is to cast doubt and get this guy off.” Neither Polansky nor prosecutor Sharon Holback will discuss the case, and there is no indication that information about Piscatelli will be used by either side at Miller’s trial.

Casting doubt to get people off is what criminal-defense attorneys do for a living, and part of that effort involves understanding the evidence that police and prosecutors gather to bring charges against their clients. In Miller’s case, the nature of that evidence had been limited for the most part to the DNA analysis–until recently, when a new prosecutor took over the case and, as the law requires, submitted to Polansky voluminous documentation about the lengthy investigative process that led to Miller’s indictment in January. Delays in “discovery,” as this process is called, in large part have been responsible for rescheduling the trial date, which was reset four times and is now scheduled to start Jan. 24, 2007.

In October, Polansky argued in court that the state’s discovery failures had been so severe that the charges should be dismissed. A judge disagreed, so the case is proceeding, and on Dec. 5 Miller’s request for a change in his no-bail status was denied. Meanwhile, the late-arriving discovery has fattened the case file with information stating, among other things, that Convertino’s mother was told shortly after the murders that Piscatelli ordered them.

On Oct. 27, Holback disclosed in a memorandum to the defense that “Pam Morgan [Convertino’s mother] has stated that an unknown man approached her at a benefit in Binghamton, New York, held for her son’s child shortly after his murder. The man advised her that Nick Piscatelli was behind her son’s murder, he covered his tracks and hired someone to kill him.” The memo does not indicate when Morgan shared this information with investigators, but she told City Paper during a Nov. 30 phone interview that the event was held in May 2003, just weeks after the murders.

“At the benefit, this guy comes up to me and he says he knows who was behind my son’s murder” Morgan recalls. “I didn’t know Nick [Piscatelli] at that point.” Since then, though, Morgan says she has kept in regular, friendly phone contact with Piscatelli.

“Oh boy! She said that?” Piscatelli says when informed of Morgan’s statement about the man’s visit to the Binghamton gathering. “That’s unfortunate. I’ve spoken to her several times, and she’s never mentioned anything like that to me. That’s certainly sad to hear. There has been no animosity between us.”

Over the phone from her home outside of Binghamton, Morgan describes the man who dropped Piscatelli’s name at the benefit as white, in his 30s, several inches shy of six feet tall, with “lightish hair,” of “medium build,” and “wearing a long coat, like a trench coat.”

“He came in, talked, and left,” she continues. “I was like, `Whoa!’ And that’s when I first started questioning the club, and had these theories [that Piscatelli might be involved]. And I also thought, did [the man] do it purposefully, to throw it off someone else by naming Nick? Because there is no evidence against Nick.”

Still, she says she’s fearful of Piscatelli, and now that her suspicions have been made public in Miller’s case file she says she will stop calling him. “That was my last call to him, probably in September,” Morgan recalls, when she says she discussed with Piscatelli items still in his possession that belonged to her son. (The Oct. 27 memo also discloses that Morgan told investigators that this reporter shared with her information about Piscatelli obtained through unnamed sources.)

Morgan’s statements are not the only ones mentioning Piscatelli in the discovery documents. A Nov. 9 discovery memo states that “a record of firearms owned and registered to Nicholas Piscatelli” was shared with the defense. Piscatelli reacts to this news by saying that “it was years ago–during the 1990s, or the 1980s–that I bought a couple of guns for hunting or target practice,” and asserts again that Polansky and Miller are “trying to use whatever they can to cast a shadow of a doubt.”

On Oct. 24, court documents also show prosecutor Holback shared with the defense “notes of detective’s interview of Carl Weaver (who is believed to be also known as Carl Curry)” that provide information about Weaver’s relationship with Piscatelli and “several other men,” including one that “obtained drugs for Nick Piscatelli.” Neither Weaver nor the two men whose names are mentioned could be located by City Paper in time for this article, and Piscatelli asserts he doesn’t know them. As for Weaver’s allegation about drugs, Piscatelli, who in the mid-1990s pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in Howard County, doesn’t directly respond but says that “there were no drugs in that club and no evidence of that going on.”

In fact, as City Paper has previously reported (“Club Trouble,” Mobtown Beat, June 11, 2003), evidence of drugs at the Redwood Trust does exist in the public record. In 2002, police executed a search-and-seizure warrant there and seized small amounts of cocaine and other drugs from the club. However, despite the evidence, the Baltimore City Liquor Board acquitted Redwood Trust of the resulting violations. “The fact [is] there were drugs there, obviously,” then-liquor board Chairman Leonard Skolnik said at the 2002 hearing.

In a November 2003 police report, Piscatelli stated that, while at the club, he was forced to sign a fraudulent promissory note for the sale of the nightclub business to another party, who, along with three armed men wearing masks, threatened Piscatelli and his business partner, Paul Chrzanowski, and asked them to sample “cocaine in a paper towel” (“Deadwood Bust,” Mobtown Beat, April 28, 2004). No criminal charges resulted from the incident, though competing lawsuits over the promissory note ended in October 2005, with Piscatelli winning a $1 million judgment against the buyer, Omar Haughton of Ellicott City.

Miller, meanwhile, worked for Redwood Trust, according to Piscatelli, who said prosecutors have asked him to produce Miller’s employment records. In court cases against him in the 1990s, Miller used an alias and three different dates of birth that today would place him in his mid-30s. One case, for murder in 1993, resulted in an assault conviction and two months of incarceration. Miller’s other conviction was for forgery in the mid-1990s, though he has dodged drug-conspiracy and other charges.

The state has accused Miller not only of murder in the Redwood Trust case but also armed robbery. This is apparently due to the fate of Convertino’s laptop computer, which court documents show Miller pawned the day after the bodies were found on April 16, 2003. Court records also indicate that Miller used Convertino’s credit card to pay for his honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico. Miller was first interviewed by detectives at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on May 14, 2003, when he and his wife, Tarsha Fitzgerald, returned from their honeymoon. During that interview, according to a detective’s notes contained in the court file, Miller described Convertino as a friend.

“Jay was a good guy,” the detective wrote of Miller’s statements at the airport. “Jay was willing to help anyone out at any time.”

Miller has consistently maintained his innocence and asserted his right to a speedy trial since his arraignment this past March. Until the trial, it’s anyone’s guess how Miller’s DNA was found in the gloves left at the murder scene, what Miller was doing with Convertino’s laptop, and how Miller came to use the victim’s credit card to pay for his honeymoon.

Piscatelli says Miller also asked him for honeymoon money, though he declined to lend it. “I didn’t really know [Miller],” Piscatelli says, “and didn’t really hire him” to work at Redwood Trust. That, he maintains, was Convertino’s decision.

Piscatelli is bewildered by indications that the case against Miller is developing to include information that suggests Piscatelli is being investigated in connection with the crime. “It’s a shame this thing is going in this direction,” he states ruefully. “I wouldn’t ever dream of doing anything like that. . . . I wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Trying Time: Double-Murder Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, March 22, 2006

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Pam Morgan drove to Baltimore from near Binghamton, N.Y., to attend the March 15 arraignment of the man she and city prosecutors believe murdered her son. Since April 16, 2003—the day the gunned-down bodies of her son, 31-year-old Jason Convertino, and Sean Wisniewski, 22, were found in a Fells Point apartment, about five days after the murders allegedly occurred—she has anticipated the day when a suspect would face reckoning for the crime.

That day is coming soon. Randallstown resident Anthony Jerome Miller, whose court records indicate he’s either 30, 33, or 35 years old, pleaded not guilty to the double-murder and related charges, after the indictments were read aloud to him as he stood before Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Shirley Watts. The case was then put on the court docket for trial starting June 19. The evidence against Miller includes DNA collected from latex gloves left at the crime scene. Miller and the victims were affiliated with the Redwood Trust nightclub downtown, which Convertino managed for owner Nicholas Piscatelli.

Outside the courtroom after the arraignment, Morgan, who had kept stoically dry-eyed during the proceeding, commented on how her son had tried to fight off his attacker. “Jason was a fighter, but look at Miller,” she said. Broad-shouldered and buff, Miller, according to court records, stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 225 pounds.

“I am so glad I came to see Miller,” Morgan wrote in an e-mail to City Paper the next day. “I said I didn’t know how I would react, and I really surprised myself. I felt a God-given strength all of a sudden, and felt like my son was standing right beside me. Strange, huh? I hope I’m that strong through the trial.”

Miller’s attorney, Paul Polansky, declined to comment on the case after the arraignment, other than to say his client is not guilty.

Polansky, standing with four of Miller’s friends and family members in the foyer outside the courtroom, also declined to discuss previous charges for which he represented Miller: a 1993 double-murder case in which Miller was found guilty of assault; the state declined to prosecute him on the murder charges. A request was made to the Baltimore City State’s Attorneys’ press office to speak with the prosecutor of that case, David Chiu. Chiu, however, was not available as of press time.

The court file for that 1993 case, retrieved from archives, paints a confusing picture. The police report describes not two victims but one: 28-year-old Joseph Earl Carter. Carter was found June 13, 1993, dead from a gunshot wound to the head, his body reposed in the middle of the 1800 block of Westwood Avenue in Sandtown-Winchester. A shot also was fired into Carter’s car, which struck another victim, Ramona Jones. According to the report, she “later pulled the deformed projectile from her hair (it did not penetrate the skin) and handed it to investigators.” Miller was identified by witnesses as being part of a group that had attacked Carter’s friend. Ultimately, though, it appears from the case file that the gunman was never arrested.

Miller’s wife, Tarsha Fitzgerald, was interviewed over the phone by City Paper on Feb. 19, and stated that “I will definitely sue if my name is mentioned” in an article about the Redwood Trust murders. She said that Miller, who turned himself in on a warrant in January, never expected to be detained on the charges, and that he’s a religious man “in second-year discipleship at church.” In May 2003, shortly after the killings, “police kicked the door in” at her previous Randallstown residence, Fitzgerald claimed, and “took Anthony’s clothes and boots,” but that the “paperwork disappeared” regarding the incident. After the police raid, she said, she sold the house, and she and Miller moved to another house she purchased in Randallstown. She sold that home, which is Miller’s address in the charging documents, shortly before Miller surrendered.

Redwood Bust: Suspect Indicted in 2003 Double Murder of Nightclubbers

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Feb. 22, 2006

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On Feb. 17, a Baltimore City grand jury indicted Anthony Jerome Miller (pictured) for the April 11, 2003, murder of Jason Michael Convertino and Sean Michael Mietus Wisniewski in Convertino’s Fells Point apartment at 1917 Gough St. Convertino, 31, was the manager of Redwood Trust, a downtown nightclub, and Wisniewski, 22, worked for Buzzlife, a Washington, D.C.-based entertainment company that held events at Redwood Trust on Saturday nights. Miller, who is being held without bail, turned himself in Jan. 23, four days after a warrant was issued for his arrest. His arraignment is scheduled for March 15.

Miller’s arrest was the first break in the case, which has remained shrouded in mystery since three of Wisniewski’s friends discovered the bodies on April 16, 2003. Convertino’s mother, Pam Morgan of Binghamton, N.Y., says that one of the initial homicide investigators “told me there was not any evidence at all. They [the perpetrators] covered all their tracks—that’s what he said about this. And I thought, Oh my god, no one’s going to be caught for this.” Since then, the case ended up in the hands of cold-case investigator William Ritz. “Thank God for Ritz,” Morgan says, “or we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Attempts to reach Wisniewski’s father to comment for this article were unsuccessful. Redwood Trust owner Nicholas Argyros Piscatelli and Miller’s attorney, Paul Polansky, did not return messages. Ritz, reached by phone at the cold-case squad’s office Feb. 20, would not comment, since the case, he said, is still “in the early stages” of being investigated.

According to court records, the murder weapon was “a .38/.357 caliber handgun.” Wisniewski was killed by a single gunshot wound, court records show, and sources familiar with the case, who asked to remain unnamed, say it was delivered to his head. Convertino, court records reflect, died of multiple gunshot wounds. Sources close to the investigation say that two rounds were fired into Convertino’s head, and another was shot into his arm. Miller, according to some of these sources, worked at Redwood Trust during the time of the murders.

Court documents written by Ritz explain the case against Miller. On the day the bodies were discovered, a latex glove and a second partial latex glove were recovered from the apartment by crime-scene investigators. Shortly afterward, Ritz’s report continues, it was learned that Convertino’s laptop computer was missing. On May 12, 2003, investigators discovered that the computer had been pawned by Miller on April 17, 2003—the day after the bodies were found—at a pawnshop in Randallstown. Miller’s driver’s license was presented to the pawnshop during the transaction, and lists an address a few miles away, in the Rolling Ridge subdivision.

In March 2005—nearly two years after the murders—the police finished processing the physical evidence in the case, including the latex gloves, according to Ritz’s report. The gloves were found to contain skin cells inside of them. On Aug. 16, 2005, police collected blood from Miller to compare his DNA to the skin cells. The comparison was completed on Nov. 29, and the skin cells were found to be consistent with Miller’s DNA.

“[T]his investigator believes,” Ritz wrote in his report, “that the latex gloves found at the crime scene . . . [were] worn by the defendant as a precautionary measure so as not to leave any physical evidence . . . that would link him to the crimes of assault, armed robbery and premeditated murder of [the] victims.”

“With the gloves, it just amazes me that they didn’t do what they had to do earlier,” Morgan says. “They had them since the day the bodies were found.”

Morgan chalks it up to Miller’s “stupidity” that he left behind evidence, such as the gloves and driver’s license information, that could trace the crime back to him, as police allege.

Miller has had some run-ins with Baltimore police in the past. In a 1993 case, court records show, he faced two murder charges and an assault charge. Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman Joseph Sviatko says the state declined to prosecute him on the murder charges, but he was found guilty of assault in that case and received a one-year sentence, with 10 months suspended. In 1997, he was found guilty of forging a public document and received a $250 fine, a two-year suspended sentence, and 18 months of probation. Also in 1997, a drug-conspiracy case against him was shelved by prosecutors. In 1994, the state’s attorney declined to prosecute him on an assault charge and on a charge of playing dice. (In the 1994 dice case, Miller used an alias: Samuel Lester Miller. Sviatko says records show that Miller also used three different dates of birth: one in 1975, one in 1972, and one in 1970.)

Most recently, on Dec. 1, 2005, Miller was charged in Baltimore with providing unauthorized taxicab services. Court records show that the state’s attorney declined to prosecute the charge on Jan. 24, the day after he turned himself in on the murder charges.

Morgan says she believes that Miller, if he’s found guilty of the murders, did not act alone. She bases that on a conversation she had with the second set of detectives who handled the case, before Ritz took it over.

“They said that they felt from the scene that there were two people in the apartment,” Morgan recalls, stressing that the case is still under investigation, even though Miller is in custody and facing trial. The Baltimore City State’s Attorneys Office, Morgan says, told her Miller’s trial could start as soon as June, unless circumstances cause a delay.

Club Trouble: Redwood Trust for Sale After DWI Conviction of Owner, Murder of Manager

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, June 11, 2003

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Nicholas Argyros Piscatelli, owner of the posh downtown nightclub Redwood Trust, plans to sell the business to one of the club’s DJS for $350,000, according to a transfer-of-ownership application filed at the Baltimore City Liquor Board on June 3. The transfer proposal comes a month after Piscatelli was convicted of drunk driving in Baltimore City District Court, and six weeks after Redwood Trust manager Jason Convertino was murdered in an execution-style double homicide at his rented Fells Point home. Piscatelli appealed his drunk-driving conviction, and the murders remain unsolved.

On May 2, Piscatelli pleaded not guilty to driving while impaired by alcohol before Baltimore District Court Judge Askew Gatewood. The judge found him guilty and handed him a 60-day suspended sentence, supervised probation for one year, a $200 fine, and a 24-year alcohol restriction on his driver’s license. According to court documents, the lengthy alcohol restriction means Piscatelli is “to not drive a motor vehicle after having consumed any amount of alcohol.” Piscatelli appealed the conviction to Baltimore Circuit Court on May 29. While a drunk-driving conviction on a liquor-license owner’s record doesn’t look good, it is not sufficient cause for losing one’s liquor license, according to Liquor Board deputy executive secretary Jane Schroeder. “The only thing that is an absolute bar [to holding a license] is a felony conviction,” she says.

The 55-year-old Piscatelli also has a prior criminal record. In Howard County in 1996, he pleaded guilty to the possession of cocaine and driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and received probation. In the summer of 2001, Piscatelli sought twice to have his Howard County criminal record expunged and was denied both times.

As of press time, Piscatelli had not returned calls for comment. Attorney Peter Prevas is representing him on the drunk-driving appeal, and when asked if the conviction and the proposed Redwood Trust liquor-license transfer are related developments, he said, “I’m not aware of the transfer application, so I don’t know how to answer the question.” Melvin Kodenski, Redwood Trust’s Liquor Board attorney, declined to comment, saying, “Nick hasn’t authorized me to talk to anybody” about the pending application.

Other than Redwood Trust, Piscatelli has significant interests in Baltimore real estate. As he explained in a letter to the Liquor Board in 2000, he is a developer with a yen for investing in historic commercial properties–including the Jackson Towers in Bolton Hill and the Standard Oil building on St. Paul Place. One of his companies, American Dream Homes, won a contract in 2001 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to handle listings of HUD-owned properties in Baltimore.

The murder of 31-year-old Redwood Trust manager Convertino (pictured, above left) was discovered on April 16, when three friends kicked in the door to his residence at 1917 Gough St. and found two dead bodies: Convertino’s and that of 22-year-old Sean Wisniewski (pictured, above right). A single bullet to the head had killed each. The crime has sent shock waves of concern through Baltimore’s nightlife community, and speculation as to the reason for the murders has been rife.

Convertino moved to Baltimore from Rockville last fall and, in addition to managing Redwood Trust, had recently started a nightlife promotions company called J. Michaels Entertainment. Previously, he had been owner or co-owner of several clubs in Binghamton, N.Y., according to press accounts there. Wisniewski, a Virginia resident, worked for Buzzlife, a nightlife promotions company based in Washington, D.C., that holds Saturday-night events at Redwood Trust.

Redwood Trust, housed in the historic Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust building on East Redwood Street downtown, has periodically been the subject of controversy since shortly after it opened in the fall of 2001. In December of that year, liquor inspectors raided the establishment for operating after 2 a.m., despite the fact that the city zoning board had given its approval for the club to remain open, alcohol-free, until 4 a.m. The early-morning raid, during which Redwood staff threatened and intimidated liquor inspectors, sparked a legal battle that still endures. The Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments in March, but has yet to issue an opinion on whether Redwood has the right to host after-hours dancing.

In February 2002, Redwood Trust made headlines again, when Baltimore Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary told police he was assaulted by patrons at the club and suffered a cut to his nose that required stitches. Within days, the Baltimore homicide unit, which investigated the case because of McCrary’s high-profile status, executed a search-and-seizure warrant at Redwood. Backing the homicide unit were members of the police vice squad, which seized small quantities of cocaine and other drugs at various locations inside the club. As a result of the drug find, the Liquor Board charged the club with a narcotics violation, but found it not guilty.

“The fact [is] there were drugs there, obviously,” Liquor Board Commission Chairman Leonard Skolnik said at the June 6, 2002, hearing on the narcotics violation, according to a hearing transcript. “There’s no question. Even though, whatever you call it–it’s not guilty. There’s no way that we can hold the licensee responsible for some drugs that were on the floor. Obviously, you got to be careful, your people are careful, you got to make sure they understand people can’t use drugs in your establishment. That’s it.”

In addition to the controversies surrounding the club and its owner, there is also some question about who, exactly, owns the club. From Redwood Trust’s earliest beginnings in 2000, Piscatelli has represented himself to the Liquor Board as the sole owner of the club and the real estate where it operates. The reality, as reflected in press accounts, Liquor Board documents, and interviews, is that Piscatelli appears to have partners in both the nightclub and the property.

The company that owns the building, 200 East Redwood St. LLC, purchased it for $500,000 in May 2000 and reportedly sunk at least another $1 million in improvements–work that last year garnered a historic-preservation award from Baltimore Heritage, a local preservation-advocacy group. Press reports and records in the Liquor Board files, however, reflect at least one other partner in the real estate: Paul Chrzanowski. In several Liquor Board reports on the club, inspectors reported that Chrzanowski represented himself to them as the property owner.

Chrzanowski also holds the liquor license for Club 2314 on Boston Street in Canton (formerly Fusion and, before that, the Spot) and owns 1722 N. Charles St., which houses after-hours club 1722. In the fall of 2001, 29 patrons were arrested at 1722 and police seized 41 bags of cocaine, 183 doses of Ecstasy, and 82 small plastic bags of the club drug ketamine. Michael Kohl, who has worked as a manager of Redwood Trust, runs 1722.

Redwood Trust LLC is the company that owns the nightclub. Piscatelli has repeatedly claimed 100 percent ownership of the company in Liquor Board documents. A brief conversation with the proposed new owner, Redwood DJ Leonard Kern–who formerly worked as manager for Chrzanowski at 2314 Boston St.–reflects otherwise.

“I’m presently one of the owners there,” Kern told City Paper on June 3, even though the transfer of ownership has yet to be approved by the Liquor Board. “I filed to be added to the license,” and Piscatelli is to be “taken off the license,” he explained before cutting short the interview and saying he’d call back after conferring with his attorney.

In a June 5 follow-up interview, Kern said, “It’s really nobody’s business” who owns the club. The transfer application reflects that Kern has put $5,000 down on the $350,000 purchase price, and that he will lease the building for five years at $12,000 a month–twice the $6,000 monthly rent the business was paying previously. Kern’s attorney, Melvin Kodenski, told City Paper that “it’s probably better to talk to the principals” about the proposed sale of the club.

The Liquor Board’s Schroeder says applications for transfers are made “under penalty of perjury,” so ownership information provided in the application is presumed to be true.

“It was always my understanding that Piscatelli was the 100 percent shareholder,” she says. Information to the contrary “suggests that the person has lied” in the application, she says, and “we would follow up” to ascertain whether that in fact happened.

If it were determined that ownership of the club was misrepresented, the Liquor Board could charge the club with a violation and bring it before the board’s commission for a hearing. When asked about Kern, Schroeder says, “I don’t think he’s shown up as an owner prior” to the pending application.

The Lonely Killer: Anthony Jerome Miller Got 60 Years For Double Murder, But Questions Still Remain Over Whether Or Not He Acted Alone

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, June 20, 2007

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Tarsha Danielle Fitzgerald was a 34-year-oldsingle mother when she married Anthony Jerome Miller, then 27, in the spring of 2003. The two had met only recently, not long after Miller’s mother had died of cancer, and the relationship quickly grew serious. Both were congregants at West Baltimore’s New Psalmist Baptist Church in Uplands. Fitzgerald sold advertising for Magic 95.9 FM, a Radio One station, while Miller–well, Fitzgerald’s friends hardly knew anything about her fiancé, much less what he did for a living. But they knew he did a lot of nice things for her and that she was crazy about him. He fast became like a father to her two children after he moved into her Owings Mills townhouse, and they later had a child of their own. Miller even paid for the honeymoon in Mexico. He used an acquaintance’s credit card to make the final payment, claiming it was the friend’s wedding gift to the couple.

The card belonged to 31-year-old Jason Michael Convertino, the general manager of the now-defunct downtown nightclub Redwood Trust. Miller used Convertino’s card on April 12, 2003, the day after Convertino and 22-year-old Sean Michael Wisniewski, a DJ who sometimes spun vinyl at Redwood Trust, were shot to death. Nearly three years later, in January 2006, Miller was charged with the murders. In June of this year, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison. Immediately afterward, Miller appealed his conviction and filed a motion to modify the sentence.

At the time of the murders, Convertino had been arranging hip-hop celebrity appearances at Redwood Trust and was planning to take his crowd-gathering skills to another Baltimore venue, the now-defunct Bohager’s Bar and Grill. He and Wisniewski were killed on a Friday evening inside Convertino’s Gough Street rowhouse apartment, just across the street from General Wolfe Elementary School in Upper Fells Point. Their bodies were discovered five days later, after Wisniewski’s friends kicked in the door to the apartment, discovered the carnage, and called the Baltimore Police Department.

The police investigation stagnated shortly after it began, when the initial lead detective resigned from the force. That investigator, Blane Vucci, found that Miller had used Convertino’s credit card and had pawned Convertino’s laptop after the killings, but the evidence was not enough to bring charges. The investigation revived in 2005, after detective William Ritz was assigned it as a cold case and, in a matter of months, established that Miller’s DNA was found at the crime scene. Ritz, following official policy, has declined to speak on the record about the case.

Miller was on a trip with Fitzgerald in Atlanta when the murder charges were filed, and he immediately returned to Baltimore to surrender and declare his innocence. His attorney, Paul Polansky, pleaded for a speedy trial, but the proceedings were delayed when the prosecutor assigned to the case took a private-sector job and another prosecutor, Sharon Holback, took it over.

When the trial finally took place in March 2007, evidence showed that Miller and Fitzgerald both knew Convertino, whose nickname was Jay. Miller had worked briefly on Redwood Trust’s security staff, having been hired by Convertino, who knew Fitzgerald because, as a promoter, he knew who was who among the Radio One sales staff. Holback presented evidence that Miller came to Convertino’s apartment to kill him and steal his credit card and laptop in order to pay for the honeymoon, and that Wisniewski was shot dead simply because he happened to be there when Miller arrived.

On March 15, after two and a half days of deliberations, a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury found Miller guilty of two counts of second-degree murder–the non-premeditated kind–but acquitted him of handgun, robbery, and first-degree and felony murder charges. Afterward, jury members asked Judge Robert Kershaw to seal their names, so they can’t be contacted to explain their decision. The verdict seems to suggest, however, that they believed Miller killed the two, but, despite the prosecution’s evidence and arguments to the contrary, he didn’t plan to. What’s more, the jury evidently decided that he didn’t use a gun, even though that’s what killed the men, and that he didn’t rob Convertino, even though he used Convertino’s credit card and pawned his laptop. It probably wasn’t exactly what the prosecutor was hoping for, but it was a conviction.

Holback described the jury’s decision as a “compassionate verdict.” But there is room to wonder whether Miller found his way to Convertino’s apartment on his own initiative, and whether access to a stolen credit card and a laptop to hock was enough to prompt a double murder. Whether the investigation remains open is a can’t-confirm-or-deny matter, as far as law enforcement is concerned. But, despite Miller’s conviction, the Redwood Trust double murders remain mysterious.

Convertino came to Baltimore in the fall of 2002, hired to manage Redwood Trust after a couple of short gigs managing other venues in the region, including Jillian’s at Arundel Mills Mall. His résumé already boasted substantial experience managing and owning clubs in his native Binghamton, N.Y. He got his start in the business there from a club owner named Bill Uhler, who hired him in 1996 to manage a place called the Shark Club.

“He was the first to bring major DJ acts to the [Binghamton] area,” Uhler recalls in a recent phone conversation, and lists appearances by hip-hop luminaries such as Funkmaster Flex and DJ Skribble as promotions handled by Convertino. Uhler says he watched Convertino develop as an entrepreneur, both as a club owner and as an entertainment promoter, and they became close friends. By the time Convertino left for Maryland, Uhler recalls, he was a fixture in Binghamton: “Everybody in town knew him.”

Having landed at Redwood Trust, Convertino quickly consolidated the contacts necessary for successful club promotions and started his own company, J. Michaels Entertainment. He specialized in bringing in big names from the hip-hop world, who would draw throngs of paying customers happy just to be in the same venue as the featured celebrity. The star, who would have already performed elsewhere that night, would show up and hang out at the club for a while. These “after act parties” cost up-front money to arrange and carried with them the ever-present risk that the celebrity might not show or make only a fleeting appearance. In arranging these gigs, Convertino had to cross paths and make deals with a host of people in the entertainment business.

“I remember him as a wannabe promoter who was trying to be something that he’s not, and going about it in a shady fashion,” Mike Esterman recalls of Convertino. Esterman represents celebrity talent on a nonexclusive basis out of Washington but also works in the Baltimore area. “He’d say, `I’ve got $10,000 to spend on an artist,'” Esterman continues, “not telling me that he actually has $20,000, which I come to learn later. So he would try to pocket the difference. He didn’t do it to me, but I almost did deals with him that I found out about later. I come across those kinds of deals all the time, and it makes us all look bad, but he was no different than a lot of promoters.”

Baltimore-based entertainment consultant David Geller recommended that Redwood Trust owner Nicholas Argyros Piscatelli hire Convertino as the club’s manager and has a different take on Convertino’s dealings. “He was a harmless, hard-working, motivated, ambitious guy, and he was trying to be clever in a business setting,” Geller says. “Maybe Jay was networking himself to the talent, bypassing the local promoters, and it pissed somebody off. This guy, whatever his flaws were, he was just harmless. Whatever he did, he didn’t deserve to be shot.”

The idea that Convertino had angered others in the promotions business came up during Miller’s trial, when Scott Henry–owner of BuzzLife, a D.C.-based concert-promotions company, and Wisniewski’s boss–testified. Henry was one of the group of people who discovered the murder scene, and immediately afterward he was interviewed by police. During that interview, he discussed “heated arguments” that promoters had been having with Convertino. “I’d say there was maybe a deal gone bad,” he testified during Miller’s trial. Henry remains convinced there is more to the murders than Miller killing to get a credit card and a laptop. “I hope this is only the beginning, because you and I both know there is a lot more to this,” he said after his March 6 testimony.

“Jay tried to work around middlemen a lot of times,” Uhler observes. “If he met somebody through a promoter, the next time he tried to do it without [the promoter]. That may have caused problems in Baltimore. One thing I know, people with a lot of money don’t like to lose any–that’s how they ended up with a lot of money.”

Another old Binghamton friend of Convertino’s is Jason Smith, better known as DJ Boogie. Now an international artist based in New York City, he got his start doing gigs with Convertino. “Maybe Jay just went to compete against the wrong guys, and they hired somebody to kill him,” Smith says. “There are parts of Baltimore you really don’t want to mess with.”

Many tantalizing questions about Convertino’s business dealings and their possible role in his death are likely to remain unanswered–take the cash. Convertino’s body was found on his bed. Weeks later, the landlord’s cleaning crew threw the bed out into the alley to break it up and put it in a truck to haul away. When it hit the ground, a bundle of $7,900 in cash fell out of the mattress. The information about the money came out at trial, but no one testified what it was for, where he got it, whether anyone else knew about it, or how it fits into any theories about the murders. It was just a bundle of cash, stuffed in the mattress underneath Convertino’s dead body, discovered by happenstance, weeks after the crime.

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During his sentencing hearing, Miller spoke publicly about the case for the first time. In the middle of his statement, his shackles jangled as he suddenly turned around to face Convertino’s mother, Pam Morgan, who was sitting about 15 feet away on a courtroom bench. Miller, an imposing, broad-shouldered man, is much bigger than the diminutive Morgan, a 55-year-old retired nutritionist from upstate New York. Over Holback’s vigorous protests and Polansky’s just-as-vigorous counterprotests, Judge Kershaw allowed Miller to continue addressing Morgan face-to-face, as well as Wisniewski’s family.

“I knew your son for a short time,” Miller said to Morgan, adding that Convertino was “a good man” and claiming that “I never had no intentions at all to hurt your son.” Miller then turned to the Wisniewskis, who, like Morgan, had come in from out of town for the sentencing, and said, “I never knew Mr. Wisniewski.” He forgave Holback for prosecuting the case, asked Kershaw for mercy, and declared, “I did none of these crimes.”

Moments later, Kershaw gave Miller the maximum sentence: 30 years for each of the two murder counts, one term to be served after the other. Under state sentencing guidelines, and barring any changes from appeals, Miller can apply for parole after serving half his prison time.

“I think justice has been served, and I’ll leave it at that,” Wisniewski’s father, Michael Wisniewski, said after Miller was led away by sheriff’s deputies. Morgan, contacted by phone the next day from her home outside of Binghamton, also said that justice was served. She has believed Miller committed the murders since shortly after they occurred, when she first learned he had used her son’s credit card to pay for his honeymoon. But Morgan, unlike Michael Wisniewski, is not prepared to leave it at that.

“I was just in shock [Miller] was even talking to me,” Morgan recalled. “I was in such awe that I don’t know if he said that he didn’t kill Jay, but the overall thing sounded like [Miller said] Jay was his good friend and that he wouldn’t have done that.”

Reminded of the exact words Miller had uttered, that he “never had no intentions at all to hurt your son,” Morgan softly said, “Oh.” She paused briefly before continuing: “Ooh, now that came out funny. That, to me, is saying that he did it, but didn’t mean to.”

Morgan recalls that, right after the murders in 2003, she was led to believe by the initial homicide investigators that the killings were done by more than one person. “From day one, they all seemed to give me the inkling that the crime scene led to at least two people being in the apartment,” she says. “I never was told any facts about how they got that. I don’t know. But that’s all they’ve all led me to believe–that, and that there was no evidence, and that they didn’t think the case would ever be solved. Up until, of course, detective Ritz took over.”

The idea that more than one person was involved in her son’s death has stuck with Morgan. Even though Miller is now serving time, she says, “I don’t know if [the truth] will come out” about the full circumstances surrounding the crime. “I hope it does, because this is the hardest thing–to live without knowing if Miller was alone, or if someone else really was the cause of Miller doing this. I really want to know the whole truth, no matter who it comes from or whatever they discover. Once I know the whole truth, I think then I’ll be OK for whatever life I have left.”

Not present at the sentencing hearing–or for most of the trial, including the verdict–was Miller’s wife, Tarsha Fitzgerald. On the fifth day of the trial, Fitzgerald arrived to assert her spousal privilege not to testify against her husband, who mouthed, “I love you,” to her as she left the courtroom without looking at him. (Fitzgerald has adamantly refused to discuss the case publicly, and has threatened to sue if her name is included in media reports about the charges against her husband.)

The son Fitzgerald and Miller had together is a toddler now and was in the courtroom for his father’s sentencing. The child was held in the arms of Miller’s brother Samuel Lester Miller III. When Holback called Anthony Miller “the ultimate sociopath” and “a cold-hearted con man,” Sam Miller stood up and left the courtroom with the baby. After the hearing, he walked down Saratoga Street outside the courthouse, still carrying Miller’s son, and declared to a reporter that “it’s not over.”

Sam Miller was reiterating a point he made at length during a phone conversation days earlier. “I hope the investigators won’t be satisfied with this,” he said of his brother’s conviction. “These murders were a conspiracy,” he continues. “Anthony might have known something about it, but sometimes people feel they have to keep their mouth shut. Do I believe he knows something? Possibly. Do I believe he’s a murderer? No. We all can be fooled, but I don’t see it in him. He’s no angel, don’t get me wrong, but I honestly just don’t see that.”

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As any trial attorney who’s not in the middle of trying a case before a jury will tell you, trials aren’t really about the truth. They’re about competing interpretations of presented facts, and the jury is instructed to sort out the resulting mess. The jury’s hesitance to throw the book at Miller in its verdict may have been because of facts presented at trial that raise questions about why Convertino was murdered.

Take, for instance, the motive that Convertino’s boss may have had. Convertino was hired to manage Redwood Trust by Nicholas Piscatelli, a successful Baltimore real-estate developer. Piscatelli meticulously restored a historic downtown bank building that had survived the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 to house his posh nightclub. Convertino, witnesses testified at Miller’s trial, was planning to take his proven skills as a scene-maker to one of Redwood Trust’s competitors, Bohager’s Bar and Grill, when the murders happened. More specifically, Convertino was scheming to take a P. Diddy event that was scheduled to happen at Redwood Trust on April 13, 2003, to Bohager’s instead; after the murders, on April 11, P. Diddy appeared at Redwood Trust, as originally planned. What’s more, Piscatelli suspected Convertino of stealing not just shows, but money from Redwood Trust.

Holback took on this nettlesome situation directly during the trial: She called Piscatelli to testify. His attorney, Peter Prevas, was present in the courtroom. Piscatelli is short and a sharp dresser–he wore a dark blue shirt and a shiny dark suit, and he hung his overcoat over the side of the witness stand as he sat down. After a few questions about his background and the Redwood Trust restoration, Holback got to the meat of the matter.

“OK,” she began, “I’m going to ask you, please, sir, to look at the jury. Did you have anything to do with the murder of Jason Convertino?”

“No, I did not,” Piscatelli responded. He didn’t so much look at the jury as quickly glance at them, and then up, down, and anywhere else but at them as he continued to answer questions. He appeared exceedingly uncomfortable but exhibited no outward outrage or anger that he was being asked if he was a murderer.

“Did you have anything to do with the murder of Sean Wisniewski?”

“No.”

“Did you have any knowledge that they were going to be murdered?”

“No.”

“Did you have any information that they might be murdered?”

“No.”

“Did you ask anyone to murder them?”

“No.”

“Did you ask anyone to murder either one of them?

“No.”

“OK. Now, do you know Anthony Miller?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Have you ever seen him?”

“No. I thought I might recognize him today, but I don’t.”

In a December 2006 interview with City Paper, however, Piscatelli recalled that Miller had asked to borrow money from him to pay for the honeymoon, but he didn’t make the loan (“Late Discovery,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 6, 2006). While Piscatelli may not have met Miller face-to-face, he at least knew him as someone who once asked him for money.

Holback went on to ask Piscatelli about Convertino’s employment situation at Redwood Trust, about how the club was run, about the hip-hop events that Convertino was bringing in. Then she asked if he knew Tarsha Fitzgerald, and Piscatelli responded, “Sounds familiar, I don’t remember in what capacity.” Holback suddenly launched back into the hard questions:

“Did you ever ask Anthony Miller to hurt or kill Jason Convertino?”

“No.”

“Would you?”

“No, of course not.”

“Any reason to hurt him?”

“No.”

Holback went on to ask him how successful the Redwood Trust had been, and he explained that he sold the business in summer of 2003, not long after the killings. “It just wasn’t doing a lot of business,” he explained, adding that it had been a success before and during Convertino’s tenure as manager. In Piscatelli’s previous interview with City Paper, he claimed that Redwood Trust had never done well, since he’d banked on changes in the law that would have allowed it to stay open past 2 a.m., but the law wasn’t changed as he’d hoped.

Piscatelli handled Holback’s questions for 25 minutes before facing Miller’s attorney, Paul Polansky. Piscatelli described his relationship with Convertino as “good,” and added that “I liked Jason. He was a great guy. We’d go out to dinner once in a while.”

When Polansky asked whether or not Piscatelli argued with Convertino over stolen money, Piscatelli said, “I think I got upset with him when I heard that that was happening,” and testified that the argument occurred “maybe a month before” the murders. Asked when he first learned Convertino was trying to take acts to a different venue, Piscatelli said, “We just found out about that the week that he was missing, really.”

Then Polansky asked if Piscatelli had “an argument with Jason in the office in the presence of other people about the theft of the money and the fact that he was hustling business to another club?” Piscatelli responded: “You know, we were aware of it, we discussed it, we weren’t happy about it. But our feeling was, as the owners of the club, that he was bringing in money that we wouldn’t be earning, so, you know, we let it go.”

Polansky had made his point: Convertino’s skills as a nightlife manager and promoter were valuable to Redwood Trust. If Convertino went to work for a rival–Bohager’s, as he was about to do–Redwood Trust would be competing against him in the nightlife market. It might not seem like a suitable motive for murder, but neither does the theft of a credit card and a laptop. (Piscatelli has not been charged with any crime in relation to Convertino and Wisniewski’s deaths.)

Polansky had one last question for Piscatelli. Piscatelli’s answer–“No, I didn’t go to his funeral”–hung in the air as he left the courtroom.

Miller said he intended no harm, yet the victims’ bodies displayed signs of brutally intentional violence. What was found in Convertino’s apartment, after Wisniewski’s friends kicked in the door, screamed cold, calculated murder.

Wisniewski’s body was sitting in a living-room chair, his hand propping up his head. A burned-out cigarette butt lay on the floor next to him, and the television was on. He died instantly from a single bullet fired from a gun that was nearly touching the side of his head. Whoever fired the shot likely did it while coming up behind him, and Wisniewski probably never knew it was coming.

Upstairs in the bedroom, Convertino’s body lay face down on his bed. Unlike Wisniewski, he knew he was facing a violent death. The bathroom door was bashed in, evidently because Convertino had sought refuge there, though whoever killed him entered the apartment without force. He fought back, judging by his bruises. He took one bullet through his arm and another into the back of his skull, which exited through his jaw. A vase filled with pennies was broken over his head. A third bullet lodged in his cranium after being shot from close range into the back of his head. His bedding had been used to quiet the sound of the gun.

The evidence at Miller’s trial was circumstantial but strong. His skin cells were recovered from inside a latex glove found on the bedroom floor and mixed with Convertino’s blood in another piece of a latex glove that was left on the bed next to Convertino’s body. Cell-phone records put Miller near the scene at the likely time of the murders. The next day, Convertino’s credit card was used to pay for Miller’s honeymoon and purchase gasoline. A week or so before the murders, Miller’s cell phone was used to call Convertino’s immediate next-door neighbor, who testified that someone resembling Miller came to his apartment, claiming to be working for the cable company, and asked if the guy living next door made a lot of noise–ostensibly trying to determine whether gunshots might go unnoticed.

A handwriting expert who testified for the prosecution couldn’t say for certain whether Convertino’s signature on a form submitted to the travel agency authorizing Miller to use the credit card was a forgery penned by Miller, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t Convertino’s handwriting. The day after the bodies were found, Miller pawned Convertino’s Gateway laptop for $250, presenting his driver’s license to document the transaction at a Randallstown pawnshop where he was a regular customer. Two days later, he returned to the pawnshop to bring in the laptop’s power cord, which fetched another $150. How Miller ended up in possession of Convertino’s laptop was never addressed during the trial by the defense.

Polansky told the jury that if Miller did the killings, then “he’s the world’s dumbest, stupidest murderer of all time” because he left behind so much evidence for investigators. No witnesses, no recovered gun, no fingerprints, and a hugely out-of-proportion motive–robbery of a credit card and a laptop–but the trail led directly to Miller. Even his criminal record–he ducked a double-murder rap in an incident that resulted in his conviction for assault in 1993, and in 1997 he was convicted of forgery–seems to foreshadow the crime. Yet it took nearly three years for the homicides to be cleared with his arrest. And nowhere along the line did Miller act like a guilty suspect: He cut short his honeymoon to be interviewed by detectives in 2003, freely submitted his blood and handwriting exemplars in ’05, returned to Maryland to surrender immediately after the charges were filed in ’06, and steadfastly asserted his speedy-trial rights rather than delay the start of the trial.

But it’s hard to argue with DNA evidence that places Miller at the scene, wearing latex gloves. Any explanation other than that he was there, with the gloves on, when the murders were committed hasn’t been offered. Short of that, Polansky tried to convince the jury that it was a massive frame job, emphasizing how long it took to come up with the DNA evidence.

“They now say his DNA fits, years later,” Polansky argued in his opening statement at the trial. Miller “was set up for this crime,” he continued. “What would you do,” he asked the jury, if confronted with evidence “appearing that you know nothing about, and you know couldn’t have existed? I suggest that you would do exactly what Anthony Miller has done. Plead not guilty in the belief, in the prayer, that during the course of the trial the truth will emerge, and the truth will set you free.”

For a long time, Pam Morgan suspected that Nick Piscatelli had something to do with her son’s death. Her radar went up early on, when she met with detective Blane Vucci–the first lead investigator on the case–on her first visit to Baltimore, right after the murders in 2003. Morgan had thought of Piscatelli as nothing more than her son’s employer prior to the murders. But she recalls that when she told Vucci that she thought that the murders must have something to do with Redwood Trust, “because if Jay knew anybody, it would have been through the business,” Vucci’s heated reaction surprised her.

“He informed me that Nick did everything for my son, yelling at me,” Morgan says. “He told me there was no evidence, that the case would never be solved, and made it seem like somehow Jay did something wrong. And I left feeling hopeless.” (Attempts to reach Vucci for comment were unsuccessful.)

Morgan went back to upstate New York, and began to investigate the case on her own. She went through her son’s records that she had, calling any contacts she could find, and tried to share any information she developed with the Baltimore Police Department.

One of the things she shared with the police had to do with Piscatelli. About a month after the killings, in May 2003, a benefit was held near Binghamton to raise money for Convertino’s young daughter. About 500 people showed up, and while it was going on, Morgan says she was approached by a man she’d never seen before and hasn’t seen since. “He said that Nick Piscatelli was behind my son’s murder,” Morgan recalls, “that [Piscatelli had] hired someone to do it, and that he’d covered his tracks.”

Since then, Morgan had kept Piscatelli close. She says she maintained a phone relationship with him, never letting on that she suspected his involvement.

Morgan and Piscatelli spoke every few months throughout 2004 and ’05, she recalls, and more frequently in ’06 to discuss whether either of them had heard of any new developments in the case. Neither of them had. This past December, after her account of the encounter with the man at the benefit was published in City Paper after it surfaced in court papers in the Miller case (“Late Discovery,” Mobtown Beat), they spoke once more, and Morgan says she told Piscatelli that she hadn’t brought her suspicions up with him because they were based on rumor, not fact. “I never spoke with him again,” she says. (Informed of Morgan’s story about the mysterious tipster during a December 2006 interview with City Paper, Piscatelli said, “Oh boy! She said that? That’s unfortunate.”)

Morgan was not present when Piscatelli testified at Miller’s trial–it was the first and only day of the trial she missed. Now that Miller’s been convicted, she says she feels less certain about her suspicions than ever.

“If I knew Nick actually did it, if I actually had the proof” that he was somehow involved in Convertino’s death, Morgan says, “I don’t know what I would have done differently. As long as I still had a doubt and could speak to this man, I did so. So many other things are surfacing, and sometimes we are led to believe one thing when it is the opposite. Now, I have doubts that Nick is responsible. Before, I could go either way on this whole thing. But right now, it’s like I don’t know anymore.

“Don’t forget,” she continues, “[the police] told me they felt two people were involved. And of course, I’m thinking, Well, somebody came [to the benefit] and told me that. Was he the second person? Now, I don’t know.”

Or it might have been Miller, acting alone, killing two people simply to get a credit card and a laptop in order to pay for his honeymoon. If so, barring a successful appeal, Miller will be paying for that honeymoon for a long time to come.