Tetso testifies, denies ever harming his wife

Baltimore County jurors who will decide the fate of Dennis Tetso saw two sides of the murder defendant Monday.

In the morning, Tetso himself took the witness stand, denying in his soft baritone voice that he ever physically harmed his wife, Tracey Gardner-Tetso, who has not been seen or heard from since March 6, 2005.

“No, I never laid a hand on her. Never touched her,” he said. “I don’t believe in that.”

In the afternoon, prosecutor Garret Glennon replayed during his closing argument telephone recordings of an angry and at-times profane Tetso talking to his wife as their marriage was unraveling. Glennon also alleged Tetso shed “crocodile tears” when talking about his wife to the media in the days after her disappearance.

“His emotional state changes like a chameleon depending on the person he is talking to,” Glennon said near the end of his hour-long remarks.

Jurors will weigh charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter against Tetso, according to the verdict sheet. Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Cavanaugh’s jury instructions, with input from both sides, reflected the unique nature of a “no-body” murder case: Prosecutors included a longer-than-usual explanation of circumstantial evidence, while the defense added the jury must be convinced the murder happened in Maryland.

Glennon attempted to address both points in his closing argument. He revisited most of the evidence prosecutors admitted during the six-day trial, from cell phone records to Tetso’s conversations with police. Glennon also pointed to Gardner-Tetso’s untouched bank account and purchases for an April 2005 baby shower, arguing that she made future plans and did not simply vanish.

Glennon urged jurors to use their common sense and echoed a theme his co-counsel, Michelle Samoryk, touched on in her opening statement when she compared the case to a jigsaw puzzle missing a piece or two.

“You put the pieces together,” said Glennon, an assistant state’s attorney. “You need to roll up your sleeves and use the tools Ms. Samoryk and I gave you and figure it out.”

Tetso’s lawyer, David B. Irwin, is scheduled to give his closing argument Tuesday morning.

Glennon also referred to Tetso’s turn on the witness stand. Tetso spent a total of 45 minutes under oath, the sole witness in his defense. He denied under direct examination that he drove Gardner-Tetso’s car southbound through the Harbor Tunnel the night she went missing. Surveillance video shows the car pulling into a Days Inn parking lot in Glen Burnie and a person exiting the car minutes later.

Glennon charged on cross-examination that Tetso was “obsessed” with preserving his marriage, which was falling apart after Tetso learned his wife was having an affair and wanted him out of the house.

“That’s what you were afraid of — out of sight, out of mind,” Glennon said.

“If you say so,” Tetso replied.

Glennon also asked why Tetso did not participate in searches for his wife organized in the days after her disappearance.

“You knew no one was ever going to find Tracey,” Glennon said.

“I don’t know where Tracey is,” Tetso replied.

Prosecutors rested their case Monday morning without calling any additional witnesses.

Cavanaugh denied defense motions to dismiss the case and for acquittal Monday.

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