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Wallace placed close to slaying

November 28, 2000

Wallace placed close to slaying



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


A tow truck driver, testifying Tuesday at Thomas Clifford Wallace's murder trial, identified Wallace as the man to whom he gave a ride near a crime scene on Aug. 20, 1997.

Wallace, 33, formerly of Hagerstown, is charged with first- and second-degree murder in the death of Darrius Allen Fetterhoff, 58, of Greencastle, Pa.

During the second day of testimony in Wallace's Washington County Circuit Court trial, forensic chemist Jeff Kercheval told the jurors that broken eyeglasses, a smashed watch, hair found in Fetterhoff's car and stains on its back-seat fabric convinced him there had been a struggle in that car.

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

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Fetterhoff died on Aug. 28, 1997, from injuries suffered eight days earlier along Broadfording Road.

Robert Kursey, the tow truck driver, testified that on that road and on the day Fetterhoff disappeared, he picked up Wallace and a woman, later identified as Clara Miller.

Miller, who had been Wallace's co-defendant in the murder case, was found dead in March 1998.

"The man stepped out in front of my truck," Kursey said. "He had a shirt wrapped around his hand and I saw what could have been blood."

Kursey said he dropped the two off at Washington Street and Burhans Boulevard even though the man offered him $20 to drive them two more blocks to Antietam Street.

When police later showed Kursey two six-photo arrays he picked out Wallace and Miller as the two he had picked up, according to testimony.

The dead man's car was found in the area where Kursey picked up Wallace and Miller, testimony revealed. The vehicle had run out of gas near Salem Avenue just outside the city limits, court records said.

A crumpled newspaper, the broken glasses and watch, and the possible blood stains on the back seat of that car led Kercheval, a forensic chemist with the Western Maryland Crime Lab in Hagerstown, to his struggle theory.

When the trial resumes this morning, the prosecution is expected to call three forensic investigators who will testify about DNA testing on the stains in the back seat and stains on Wallace's shorts, according to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion.

Fetterhoff was beaten, robbed and left for dead along the Conococheague Creek on Aug. 20, 1997, according to court records.

When he was found at the bottom of an embankment several days later, Fetterhoff was alive but died on Aug. 28, 1997, from complications of his injuries.

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.

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