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Finfrock killer gets life sentence

August 25, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Words didn't describe how Alan Finfrock was affected by his mother's brutal murder, but a Washington County Circuit judge got the message.

Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III on Tuesday sentenced Jack L. Hammersla Jr. to life without the possibility of parole for the Nov. 12, 2003, murder of 68-year-old Shirley Finfrock at her 22128 Holiday Drive home near Smithsburg.

Alan Finfrock, the only family member slated to speak at sentencing, stood up and took a few deep, loud breaths and looked up. He grasped the short divider that separated him from the defendant, lawyers and judge, and tried to speak.

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Wearing a navy blue T-shirt with "Finfrock" written on the back, Finfrock looked away from Hammersla, rubbed his hands on his lips and then pinched his nose as his body shook. Then he sat back on the bench, shaking his head.

Wright nodded and told the family that they had been through enough.

After Wright sentenced Hammersla, 46, on the charge of premeditated first-degree murder, he said Hammersla "is an extreme danger to the community. He has forfeited freedom and must be imprisoned like an animal without conscience for the rest of his life."

Wearing the same royal blue short-sleeved shirt he wore during his four-day July trial, Hammersla showed no emotion as he looked over the shoulder of one of his attorneys, watching her write down sentences for the counts against him as Wright said them.

A Washington County Circuit jury on July 1 found Hammersla, of no fixed address, guilty on charges of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, burglary, theft, robbery and malicious destruction of property.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Steven Kessell told Wright that a presentence investigation found that Hammersla's criminal record was more extensive than he had thought.

Hammersla served 21 years of a 30-year sentence for attempted second-degree murder, Kessell said. He was released about eight months before Finfrock was murdered, he said.

Kessell said that Hammersla has a criminal history in Florida, including a couple of escape-related offenses, and has an extensive juvenile record.

"Mr. Hammersla is the type of person who should never be allowed to see daylight in a community for the rest of his natural life," Kessell said.

He asked that additional time be imposed on top of a life-without-parole sentence. Wright denied that request, equating it to adding time onto a death sentence.

Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison, one of Hammersla's defense attorneys, said that Hammersla spent most of his adult life in an institution, ran away from home at age 12, has chronic psychological problems, including a past diagnosis of a form of schizophrenia, and always has had problems making friends and bonding with his family.

"We're not making excuses for him," said Hutchison, who asked Wright to take those factors into account when sentencing Hammersla.

Deputy Public Defender Mary Riley, also representing Hammersla, asked Wright to merge some of the counts when sentencing her client because they were related, but Wright told her that some of the charges were "separate distinct acts." Wright sentenced Hammersla to consecutive lighter sentences on almost all of the accompanying charges, to run concurrently with his life sentence.

During closing arguments on the last day of Hammersla's four-day murder trial, Kessell told the jury that Hammersla could have abandoned a board after using it to break through a window to Finfrock's kitchen, which faced railroad tracks that passed behind the house.

But Kessell said that Hammersla instead took the board "just in case" someone was at the home. That someone was Finfrock. She was hit with the board six times on the head while lying on her bed, Kessell said.

The jury heard during the trial that Finfrock's blood was found on a flannel jacket Hammersla was wearing when taken into police custody, that a man fitting his description was seen walking the railroad tracks behind the Finfrock home the morning of her death and that splinters were taken from his hands by a forensic scientist.

No Finfrock family members wanted to comment following Hammersla's sentencing hearing.

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