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Stallings' murder trial begins with statements

September 20, 2005|by Pepper Ballard

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Feb. 8 started like any other morning for Mary Elizabeth Williams. Shortly before 8 a.m., when she was scheduled to start work at First Data, the 34-year-old got into the passenger seat of her boyfriend's car outside her Maugansville Road home.

But as she started to put on her seat belt, Ricky Rinaldo Stallings Jr. pulled up beside her in a Chevrolet Blazer, motioned with a gun for her to get out and allegedly opened fire, sending a fatal bullet through her heart and sending her boyfriend on a high-speed drive to the Washington County Sheriff's Department for help, according to allegations in testimony and the prosecution's opening statement Monday in Washington County Circuit Court during the first day of Stallings' trial.

Stallings, 24, whose last known address was 6088 Molly Pitcher Highway, Apt. 3, in Chambersburg, Pa., is charged with first- and second-degree murder, attempted first- and second-degree murder and a series of related charges in Williams' death.

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His trial is scheduled to last through Friday. If Stallings is convicted, the prosecution intends to seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole, according to court documents.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil told the jury in his opening statement that the state's case against Stallings is a "straightforward and clear" one.

"While Mary was preparing for work, the defendant, Ricky Stallings, was preparing for his deadly work," Veil said.

Stallings stalked the area around Williams' house before he pulled up beside Christopher Hobart's car, which was parked on Alpine Drive facing Maugansville Road beside Williams' 13915 Maugansville Road home, Veil said. Stallings pulled up beside the car facing the opposite direction, Veil said.

"He reaches across that (Blazer) through an open window and fires," Veil said.

Hobart, after reaching the Sheriff's Department, told investigators that Stallings, the nephew of Williams' estranged husband, L. Richard Williams, pulled the trigger. Stallings was arrested later that day at Chambersburg Pipe & Steel, where he worked, Veil said.

Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison, co-counsel for Stallings, said in his opening statement that the case is not that clear-cut.

The motive and means behind Stallings' alleged shooting spree won't come out in the state's case, Hutchinson said.

"There's an awful lot you haven't heard about her estranged husband," he said.

Hutchison said he wouldn't give it all away in his opening statement. He asked jurors to keep their "eyes open. Keep your ears open."

He asked them to use their common sense.

Hobart testified Monday that adrenaline moved him to speed off in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo from Williams' house when he saw the driver of the Blazer had a gun.

"I seen the gun and I just took off," Hobart testified. "I heard two shots ... The glass shattered on the passenger side door window."

Hobart said he drove "as fast as I could drive" to the Showalter Road exit, heading south on Interstate 81 to the Sheriff's Department, a place he felt would be safe. He testified he thought Stallings was following him to the highway. Williams didn't say anything or move while Hobart weaved in and out of traffic, traveling about 120 miles per hour, he said.

"She slumped over toward me when I made the turn onto 81," he said.

That's the position in which deputies found Williams once Hobart parked his car in the patrol division parking lot, Cpl. James Cooper testified. Hobart came into the patrol division lobby at about 8 a.m., when a new shift of deputies were in a morning meeting, and told Cooper to call an ambulance because his girlfriend was shot, he testified.

Cooper told dispatchers to call the ambulance and interrupted the meeting to say there was a shooting victim in the parking lot, he testified.

He said Williams "appeared deceased."

Deputy Jason Willison, a trained paramedic, testified he arrived for work and saw Williams being pulled out of the car by 1st Sgt. Robert Leatherman. Willison testified that he grabbed his CPR gear and Leatherman checked Williams' pulse and detected only a faint one. Detention Center nurses came to assist, but Willison testified, "From what I could observe, there were no obvious signs of life."

Williams was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital, according to charging documents.

Seven women and five men were seated as jurors Monday after a selection process that lasted more than two hours. Two female alternates also were seated. During the jury selection process, the only black prospective juror who was called to be considered was dismissed by Veil when it was his turn to dismiss a prospective juror. But after a conference at the bench, called for by Hutchison and Assistant Public Defender Eric Reed, the man was seated and told by Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III that there was "an administrative error."

Boone appointed the man the jury's foreman.

Neither sides would comment about what was said during the conference.

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