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Witness details beating incident

August 28, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

and BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writers

When Darrius Allen Fetterhoff came to Hagerstown on the morning of Aug. 20, he may have found sex and drugs. A few hours later, he had been severely beaten and left along the bank of the Conococheague Creek, according to Washington County District Court records.

The alleged events leading up to the attack that left Fetterhoff in critical condition at Washington County Hospital were detailed in statements given to police by a woman who claims she had sex with him and a man charged Tuesday with his beating.

Fetterhoff, 58, of Grant Street in Greencastle, Pa., was found lying in a creek bed a few miles outside town.

James Thomas, 30, of 441/2 E. Franklin St. in Hagerstown, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, police said. Bond was denied for him on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, Fetterhoff remained in critical condition at Washington County Hospital Wednesday night.

He was found Monday afternoon - five days after he disappeared - lying unconscious along the Conococheague Creek off Hopps Landing. He was smashed in the head with a rock, rolled over a 90-foot embankment and left for dead, authorities said.

According to court documents, a woman named Clara Miller told sheriff's deputies that Fetterhoff regularly solicited sex from her. Miller, who has not been charged, told authorities that Fetterhoff picked her up at about 7:30 on the morning of Aug. 20 and the two had sex, court records said.

Afterward, Fetterhoff allowed her to drive his car, according to court papers. She told investigators that the two picked up "T" - later identified as Thomas - and drove to the Jonathan Street area to buy crack cocaine, according to the papers.

After she and "T" smoked the crack, Miller told Investigator Roy L. Harsh that "T" wanted more money from Fetterhoff, according to court records. When Fetterhoff said he had no more money, "T" told Miller to drive toward Broadfording Road, according to court records.

The trio then drove to the Broadfording Road area where Fetterhoff was ordered out of the car, court records said. When he refused, he was forced out of the vehicle and struck in the head with a rock, records said.

Fetterhoff fell over the embankment and "T" went down to check on him, the woman told Harsh.

When "T" came back up, the woman told Harsh she asked him what happened to "Buddy," meaning Fetterhoff, but got no answer.

Thomas, who was questioned by investigators on Tuesday, allegedly changed his story, first saying he was in Fetterhoff's car for two seconds while he sold Fetterhoff crack then saying he merely "leaned" inside. After being told that an off-duty deputy saw him in the car that day, Thomas allegedly admitted to being in the back seat.

The off-duty deputy - Sgt. Tom Newton - observed two men and a woman in a vehicle traveling west on U.S. 40 toward Huyetts Crossroads, according to court papers.

Thomas abruptly ended the interview, refusing to answer more questions without a lawyer, according to court documents.

He also allegedly refused to allow his right hand to be photographed. According to court records, it had a blood blister and was too swollen to fingerprint.

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