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Wallace murder trial begins

November 28, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Wallace murder trial begins



A self-described former prostitute/crack addict testified Monday she saw murder victim Darrius Allen Fetterhoff in the back seat of a car occupied by Thomas Clifford Wallace, who is on trial for the Greencastle, Pa., man's 1997 murder.

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Kesha Russ' testimony came on the first day of Wallace's Washington County Circuit Court trial, which is expected to run for four days.

Wallace, 33, formerly of Hagerstown, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree assault, felony theft, car theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Russ told the jury of four men and eight women that she saw Fetterhoff and Wallace on Jonathan Street between 6 and 7 a.m. on Aug. 20, 1997.

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"I recognized Fetterhoff ... I'd seen him before trying to pick up prostitutes," Russ said.

Currently awaiting sentencing on an unrelated charge, Russ denied that she was getting a break for testifying against Wallace.

"I didn't want to testify at all ... Tommy is my friend," Russ said.

The prosecution contends that Fetterhoff, 58, was attacked by Wallace, his money was taken and then he was pushed over an embankment near Broadfording Road.

When he was found several days later, Fetterhoff was still alive but died on Aug. 28, 1997, from complications of his injuries, according to testimony Monday from Dr. Dennis Chute, an assistant in the Maryland medical examiner's office in Baltimore.

Russ testified she saw Wallace later in the day on Aug. 20, 1997.

"He had no shirt on and there was a bloody rag wrapped around his hand," Russ said.

Samples of body tissue, DNA and clothing are expected to be part of the prosecution's case as Wallace's trial resumes at 9 a.m. today before Judge John H. McDowell.

Wallace, also known as James Thomas, is serving an 11-year sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown on an unrelated 1998 drug distribution conviction.

He was first charged with murder in 1997 shortly after Fetterhoff died from injuries.

The prosecution was forced to drop the murder charges in December 1997 when key witness and co-defendant Clara Miller, 19, couldn't be located.

When the body of Miller, herself a murder victim, was found in March 1998, the case against Wallace appeared to be permanently stalled.

In March of this year, the charges against Wallace were reinstated through grand jury indictments, based on evidence that relied heavily on test results obtained at the time of Fetterhoff's death.

During a pre-trial hearing Monday, Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion told McDowell that sophisticated DNA testing done by a private laboratory produced the evidence necessary to reopen the case.

Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class T.L. McKenrick told the jury Monday that a fisherman looking for bait found Fetterhoff unconscious along Conococheague Creek east of the creek bridge on Broadfording Road.

The police investigation indicated Fetterhoff dropped his wife off at work on the day he disappeared, drove to Hagerstown and picked up Miller.

The two later picked up Wallace and apparently drove to Hopps Landing west of Hagerstown, where Fetterhoff was struck and pushed down an embankment, court documents allege.

Fetterhoff's car was then driven back toward Hagerstown until it ran out of gas near Salem Avenue just outside the city limits, police reports said.

A passing motorist - a key witness for the prosecution - gave Thomas and Miller a ride into town, police reports said.

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