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Hammersla found guilty of first-degree felony murder

November 30, 1999|By PEPPER BALLARD

After more than six hours of deliberation, a Washington County Circuit jury found Jack L. Hammersla Jr. guilty Friday of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder in the November 2003 bludgeoning death of Shirley P. Finfrock.

The jury of six women and six men acquitted Hammersla, 49, on a charge of first-degree premeditated murder in the 68-year-old Finfrock's Nov. 12, 2003, death. The first-degree felony murder conviction is based on a first-degree burglary.

It was Hammersla's second trial on the charges.

In July 2004, a jury of six women and six men convicted Hammersla in an hour on both first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder based on robbery. In February, that conviction and a subsequent sentence of life without the possibility of parole were overturned by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The appellate court ruled that evidence Hammersla pawned jewelry stolen from the Finfrock home should not have been submitted in the first trial, and ordered that he be given a new trial.

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Prosecutors intend to ask for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for Friday's conviction, according to court records. A sentencing date has not been set.

Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell said after the verdict he was pleased with this jury's verdict.

"It brings this matter to a close not only for the Finfrock family, but for the Smithsburg community as a whole," Kessell said.

After the jury was led out of the courtroom and the weeklong trial adjourned, Finfrock's family stood behind courtroom benches in a cluster around Finfrock's son, Alan Finfrock, who cried into his hands. Shirley Finfrock's husband, Edwyn Finfrock, bowed his head and put a hand on his son's shoulder.

Hammersla showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. He sat in the defendant's chair and gazed ahead, his thin lips parted slightly, his forearms resting on the table.

Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, who presided over the trial, said he would schedule a sentencing hearing within 30 days.

Hammersla was found three days after the murder with splinters in his hands and a spot of Finfrock's blood on his blue plaid flannel jacket, according to testimony. Several witnesses testified they saw a man wearing that jacket walk the railroad tracks that led behind the Finfrocks' 22128 Holiday Drive home in Smithsburg on the morning of her death.

The jury of six men and six women began deliberating Thursday at 1 p.m., and returned about 5:30 p.m. to ask Beachley to "define premeditation" and explain the "steps followed in the DNA test" that connected a spot of blood on Hammersla's jacket to Finfrock.

The jury resumed deliberations Friday at 9 a.m., and returned with their verdict at 11 a.m.

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