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Chemist: Finfrock's blood on jacket worn by accused

July 01, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Shirley Finfrock's blood was on the jacket Jack L. Hammersla Jr. was wearing when he was taken into police custody, a forensic chemist testified Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court.

The chances someone else's DNA profile would match Finfrock's is one in about 160,000-quadrillion, said Amy Kelly, a forensic chemist in the Maryland State Police Forensic Science Division who testified about the positive DNA matches.

The state on Wednesday rested its case in the murder trial of Hammersla after prosecution witnesses, including Hammersla's father, a pawn shop worker and one of Finfrock's daughters, testified. The defense is to present its case this morning.

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Hammersla, 46, of no fixed address, was indicted in January in the bludgeoning death of 68-year-old Finfrock at her 22128 Holiday Drive home near Smithsburg. He is charged with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree felony murder-robbery and other charges.

Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison, on cross-examination, challenged Kelly, who had testified that she was careful while handling the DNA samples during the testing process.

"When performing examinations - because we're all human beings - errors are always possible, right?" Hutchison asked Kelly.

Kelly reiterated her earlier testimony, saying there are safeguards in place to prevent mistakes: She handles one piece of evidence at a time and another analyst double-checks the results by running a separate test.

"In this case, I did not make any errors to my knowledge," she said.

Hammersla sat hunched in the defendant's chair with his hands clasped on his lap and gazed in the direction of his defense attorneys during much of the testimony. He'd occasionally take slow sips of water or stretch, exposing arms covered with faded tattoos, including a peace sign, a skull with a top hat and a likeness of comic strip character "Cathy."

When his father, Jack L. Hammersla Sr., was called to the stand by Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler, Hammersla Jr. gave a brief, slight smile.

After his father replaced his hearing aid with a court earphone to better hear questions asked of him, he testified that his son left his 116 W. Water St. home in Smithsburg on the morning of Nov. 12, 2003, in the "area" of 7:30 a.m., but said that "I always say seven."

Pauler asked him if he was familiar with his son's clothes and he replied, "Yes ma'am, I did his laundry."

She showed him the blue plaid flannel shirt jacket that his son was wearing when taken into police custody and asked him if he could identify it.

Hammersla Jr. had told police investigators that he found the jacket at a Hagerstown laundromat, Washington County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Roy Harsh testified on Tuesday.

"That was the one with the sheep wool in it," Hammersla Sr. testified as Pauler held up the jacket. She then showed him the knit cap that Western Maryland Regional Crime Lab Supervisory Forensic Scientist Jeffrey C. Kercheval testified on Tuesday was found next to Finfrock's purse and wallet about one-fifth of a mile from her home.

"Yeah, he had a hat like that," Hammersla Sr. testified.

Several witnesses testified that they saw a man wearing a flannel jacket walking along the railroad tracks in the Smithsburg area that morning.

Robert Nemes, a worker at Washington Street Pawn Brokers, testified that Hammersla came into the shop and showed him his Maryland identification card at about 5 p.m. on Nov. 12. Nemes said Hammersla sold a ring with nine stones, a diamond ring and a gold rope bracelet for $15.

Joan Sprout, Finfrock's daughter, testified that the ring with nine stones, each a birthstone representing Finfrock's four children and five grandchildren, was a mother's ring her family gave Finfrock about 10 years ago. She said the diamond ring was Finfrock's first engagement ring and the gold rope bracelet looked like something her mother would have worn, but said she didn't remember it specifically.

She said that she couldn't find the mother's ring or the engagement ring after she took an inventory of Finfrock's jewelry following her death.

Rodney Wolfe testified Wednesday that he was held at the Washington County Detention Center with Hammersla and had a conversation with him about the case.

"At first, it was brought up how Maryland executed people," Wolfe said.

Then Wolfe said he asked him what was going on with his case and Hammersla responded by saying that police had come for more hair and blood samples, but he refused, and that police had taken his clothes.

"I asked him if he did what they said he did," Wolfe testified. "He replied with a shake of his head, yes."

Hutchison, on cross-examination, asked Wolfe if he's been convicted over the past 10 years on attempted armed robbery and drug distribution charges. Wolfe said yes.

A 10-year-old boy took the stand for the defense in the middle of the state's case Wednesday because the time was more convenient for him, Hutchison said. The Smithsburg boy said that he was waiting for a school bus at about 7 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2003, in the Holiday Drive area.

He said, "I saw a weird guy. He had black on." The boy went on to say that the man was "acting kind of weird, crawling around kind of, sneaking around."

The prosecution did not cross-examine the youth.

Out of the jury's presence and after the state rested its case Wednesday, Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III denied Hutchison's motion for acquittal on all counts.

Hutchison said that the defense's case might take about 15 to 20 minutes today.

Wright said that the case, originally scheduled to last through Friday, was "ahead of schedule." Closing arguments could be made today, he said.

A jury of six women and six men are hearing the case. The trial is to resume today at 9 a.m.

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