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Man could face life in slaying

December 22, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A man charged with murder told a police detective he "only" stabbed Leo Morris seven times - not 32 times - when told why he could face life without the possibility of parole in Morris' April stabbing death, according to police testimony Thursday.

Marshall Adams' Nov. 29 statement might or might not be allowed as evidence in his May trial on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter in Morris' April 13 stabbing death on Bethune Avenue, Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. said Thursday.

Long said he wanted time to review cases used to argue the statement's admissibility during Adams' suppression hearing Thursday. He said he would issue his opinion in writing after Jan. 1. Long did rule, however, that he will allow prosecutors to use Adams' May 17 statements to police in Adams' three-day trial, which is to begin May 1, 2007.

Hagerstown Police Department Detective Shane Blankenship testified Thursday that he served Adams with paperwork Nov. 29 that indicated prosecutors intend to seek a sentence of life without parole if Adams is convicted of first-degree murder in Morris' death.

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"He wanted to know why the state was coming after him so hard. I told him, 'Well, it was because you stabbed a guy 32 times,'" Blankenship testified. "He said he didn't stab the guy 32 times, he only stabbed the guy seven times."

"I didn't respond to his comments. I told him he needs to contact his attorney," Blankenship said.

Morris' stabbed body was found in a Bethel Gardens Apartments walkway, in the 300 block of Bethune Avenue, on April 13 about 4:45 a.m. Bethune Avenue runs parallel between North Potomac and Jonathan streets.

Police have said they believe the men fought when Adams tried to sell cocaine to Morris, but Morris didn't want to pay for it. There was no testimony Thursday about the investigation other than how and when the two statements were obtained.

Washington County Assistant Public Defender Stephen Musselman told Long that Adams had a right to have his attorney present when he was served with the sentencing paperwork last month at the Washington County Detention Center. He said the service also infringed upon his client's right against self-incrimination.

"What we have here is an officer driving what is going on," Musselman said. "The Sheriff's Office could have served this document, not the investigating officer."

Alicia Bowers, legal secretary for the Washington County Office of the State's Attorney, testified "it's always the lead investigator who serves the paperwork" regarding sentencing notices.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson argued, "It is a statement that is not generally anticipated in any investigation. That does not make it unconstitutional."

In ruling upon the May 17 statement, Long said it was clear Adams knew his rights and was not coerced into making an admission.

The day Adams was interviewed at Hagerstown police headquarters, he was given soda, cigarettes and two meals, one of which he was allowed to eat with his mother, Blankenship testified.

"It would have been inappropriate not to feed him," Long said.

A Washington County grand jury indicted Adams on July 12 on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter.

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