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Man faces charges in slaying

January 14, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A Washington County grand jury last week indicted Jack L. Hammersla Jr. in the November 2003 slaying of a Smithsburg-area woman, Washington County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Doug Mullendore said Tuesday.

Mullendore said at a press conference that the grand jury handed up an indictment against Hammersla on Friday. He is charged in the indictment with first- and second-degree murder in the Nov. 12, 2003, bludgeoning death of Shirley P. Finfrock.

Hammersla, 46, is believed to be homeless. He has been in custody since Nov. 15, when he was arrested on unrelated charges. He was served with the new charges Tuesday morning, Mullendore said.

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Hammersla also was charged in the indictment with first-degree felony murder- robbery; first-degree felony murder-first-degree burglary; first degree felony murder- third-degree burglary; robbery; theft under $500; first-degree assault; second-degree assault; malicious destruction of property; and first-, third- and fourth-degree burglary, Mullendore said.

Police believe robbery was the motive for the slaying, he said.

He said lab tests found that Finfrock's blood was found on Hammersla's clothing.

He praised the department's investigators, including lead investigator Cpl. Roy Harsh, and several other agencies for their efforts in the case.

"It's been a very intense and thorough investigation," Mullendore said. "We're pleased with the fact it culminated in an arrest."

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Steve Kessell said Hammersla's initial court appearance likely will be a Thursday bond review, although that had not been confirmed.

Finfrock's body was found on Nov. 12 at 11:30 a.m. at her 22128 Holiday Drive home. She died of blunt force trauma to the head, Mullendore said.

Sheriff's deputies said a man matching Hammersla's description was seen walking near the home that morning.

Hammersla was taken into custody on Nov. 15 on two unrelated second-degree assault charges. Authorities allege in court records that Hammersla punched his father, Jack Hammersla Sr., of 116 W. Water St. in Smithsburg, on two occasions, the second time on Nov. 12.

Evidence collected in the days following Finfrock's death were sent to the Maryland State Police Forensic Science Division in Pikesville for processing.

The lab, Maryland State Police's only crime lab, handles up to 18,000 cases per year, and is heavily relied upon by police agencies and the federal government, state police spokesman Cpl. Rob Moroney said.

Mullendore said Tuesday that much of the evidence sent to the state police crime lab was still being analyzed. He said the lab treated Hammersla's clothing as priority items.

Mullendore declined to release information on any other evidence, including the murder weapon. Mullendore would not discuss why investigators believed Hammersla was Finfrock's killer and said the time of Finfrock's death had not been determined.

Investigators do not believe Finfrock's death was premeditated and have established no link between Hammersla and the Finfrock family, Mullendore said.

Mullendore said members of the Finfrock family were contacted prior to the press conference.

Shirley Finfrock's husband, Edwyn Finfrock, declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Hammersla was being held Tuesday night at the Washington County Detention Center on $100,000 bond on the assault charges, a spokesman said. The spokesman said no initial bail amount has been set on the murder charges.

Hammersla, convicted on a 1981 charge of assault with intent to murder, was released from the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown in March 2003, according to Department of Corrections officials.

According to published reports at the time, Hammersla stabbed a man three times with a paring knife outside the Maryland Theatre on South Potomac Street. The man sustained a collapsed lung.

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