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Sentence in 1997 murder case upheld

The Maryland Court of Appeals retains the life sentence without parole for Thomas Clifford Wallace in the murder of Darrius Alle

The Maryland Court of Appeals retains the life sentence without parole for Thomas Clifford Wallace in the murder of Darrius Alle

March 18, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Maryland's highest court upheld the life sentence without parole of Thomas Clifford Wallace, who was found guilty in November 2000 in Washington County Circuit Court of the first-degree murder of a Greencastle, Pa., man 3 1/2 years earlier.

The victim, Darrius Allen Fetterhoff, was beaten, robbed and left for dead along Conococheague Creek on Aug. 20, 1997, according to court records. When found at the bottom of an embankment several days later, Fetterhoff was alive but later died from complications.

The sole issue raised by Wallace to the Maryland Court of Appeals was whether his Fourth Amendment rights to privacy were violated when his clothing - seized when he was jailed on an unrelated offense - was searched by an investigator who was working on the murder case.

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"Generally, incarcerated individuals do not have any legitimate or reasonable expectation of privacy in their belongings legally taken by law enforcement personnel and subsequently stored in police custody," the high court ruled last month.

Those items of clothing later took on more importance after witnesses in the murder case began describing an individual and his clothing, which matched Wallace and his clothing, according to the 30-page court opinion.

At that point, Cpl. Roy Harsh of the Washington County Sheriff's Department checked with jail personnel about what clothing belonging to Wallace was taken to the jail property room after he was issued a jail jumpsuit.

The description matched what witnesses had told Harsh and included a pair of dark blue shorts, according to the court opinion. The clothing was removed from the jail property room by Harsh and taken to the patrol property room.

As soon as Harsh saw what looked like stains on the shorts, he contacted an attorney at the Washington County State's Attorney's office and was told to obtain a search warrant for the clothing.

Following those instructions, Harsh obtained the search warrant and submitted the shorts for testing.

At trial, the director of a private DNA testing laboratory testified that blood found on Wallace's shorts matched Fetterhoff's blood.

Earlier prosecution witnesses linked Wallace and Fetterhoff in drug and prostitution scenes in Hagerstown. Key testimony revealed Fetterhoff first had contact with Wallace through Clara Miller, a woman Fetterhoff knew from previous encounters, court records said.

Miller, who was Wallace's co-defendant in the murder case, was found dead in March 1998. That homicide was never solved.

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