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Stallings found guilty of murder

September 23, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

After more than two hours of deliberations Thursday, a Washington County Circuit Court jury found Ricky Rinaldo Stallings Jr. guilty of first-degree murder in the Feb. 8 shooting death of Mary Elizabeth Williams.

As the jury's foreman announced the guilty verdict for first-degree murder, Stallings' mother, Lisa Williams, cried aloud. Stallings sat back in his chair and rubbed the hair on his chin as eight more guilty verdicts were announced.

Among the verdicts, Stallings, 24, was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder for firing at Mary Williams' boyfriend, Christopher Hobart. Hobart was in the driver's seat of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo when Williams, in the passenger seat, was shot from a Chevrolet Blazer outside her 13915 Maugansville Road home at about 7:50 a.m., as Hobart picked her up for work at First Data.

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After the seven women and five men on the jury were polled individually, affirming that the verdict was unanimous, a female juror hid her face with her hand. When she stood up to leave with the rest of the jurors, she was crying.

As others in the courtroom stood up to acknowledge the jurors' exit, Stallings, who had stood up and faced them at their every entrance and exit, remained seated, still rubbing his chin and staring in their direction.

The prosecution intends to seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Oct. 24.

After the verdict, Mary Williams' mother, Elizabeth Malek, said with tears in her eyes, "I'm ecstatic." She thanked everyone who supported her throughout the trial.

In his closing argument, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil told the jury that there shouldn't be anyone who has "any serious or reasonable doubt."

"The defendant was trying to leave no witness, but he failed. He was trying to leave no evidence, but he did. And he was trying to get away with murder, but he won't," Veil said.

Eyewitness testimony from Hobart, he said, was "steadfast."

Quoting what he believed Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers' sidekick, once said, Veil said, "When a man looks down at you through the barrel of a gun, you ain't likely to forget his face."

But Assistant Public Defender Eric Reed, in his closing argument, said anyone can make a mistake, which is what happened in this case.

"Perhaps somebody who has been through a tragedy like that had to come up with an answer," Reed said.

Veil, in his closing argument, said that if Hobart's testimony wasn't enough, the prosecution presented "two little shell casings that speak volumes."

He said the Winchester 9 mm shell casing found among shattered glass by Williams' house and the Winchester 9 mm shell casing found in Stallings' Blazer were fired by the same gun, as testified to Wednesday by a Maryland State Police ballistics expert.

Reed asked jurors to consider why the prosecution did not present evidence of a gunshot residue test on Stallings. He asked them to consider that perhaps someone else drove his Blazer that morning. He said the prosecution never said if the keys to the Blazer were found among Stallings' possessions.

"If this was your best friend, your spouse, your son charged with these offenses, would this evidence be enough for you to say, 'I'm sure?'" Reed asked.

Stallings' Blazer was taken at about 11:30 a.m. the day of the murder from Chambersburg Pipe & Steel, according to previous testimony.

Veil directed jurors' attention to the Maugansville residents who testified they saw a Blazer parked beside Williams' house, across the street, across the intersection and in the Maugansville Creamery parking lot as early as 5:45 a.m. the day of the shooting.

In Reed's closing argument, he directed jurors' attention to the only witness called for the defense's case, Mary Williams' estranged husband and Stallings' uncle, L. Richard Williams.

Reed said, referring to L. Richard Williams, "There's only one person that had a reason to cause harm to Mary Williams."

L. Richard Williams was questioned extensively by Stallings' attorneys, the prosecution and Boone, out of the presence of the jury, to ensure he understood the investigation into his wife's death is ongoing and that anything he said on the witness stand could be used against him.

Boone told Williams that when the jury was brought out, if he felt the need to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, which protect against self-incrimination, he should say, "I would like a clarification of the question, please." Boone said he wanted to ensure Williams did not invoke that right in front of the jury.

Williams, 42, testified he was going through divorce proceedings at the time of his wife's death and that he had been ordered in December 2004 to increase his wages for child support for their two children.

He acknowledged that Mary Williams and Hobart, whom he said were having an affair, were scheduled to testify against him the day of the fatal shooting on a charge he violated a protection order Mary Williams filed.

Reed asked L. Richard Williams if the charge was aggravating to him, to which Williams said, "annoying."

"I don't have a temper so I was not happy with it, no," he testified.

Later, Reed asked, "Did you ever tell Ricky Stallings to inflict harm on your wife?"

"No," he said.

"Did you have any involvement with your wife's death?" Reed asked.

"No," he replied.

Williams testified he clocked out of work at First Data on Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m. after working an overnight shift.

He testified that he did not speak to Stallings the night of Feb. 7. Washington County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Roy Harsh testified that Williams told investigators that he did.

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