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Grand jury to get case of W.Va. woman charged with murder

September 22, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Berkeley County magistrate found probable cause Friday to forward to a circuit court grand jury the case of a Martinsburg woman charged with murder.

Maria L. Smith-Decicio, 34, of 210 Gussie Ave., is charged with murder in the Sept. 15 shooting death of 45-year-old Richard Earl Amundson at that address.

Smith-Decicio was being held without bond at Eastern Regional Jail after Friday's preliminary hearing before Magistrate Harry L. Snow.

When officers arrived at the scene of the shooting, Smith-Decicio was holding a .22-caliber pistol to her head, police said. She was staring straight ahead and "she appeared not to even recognize us or know we were in the house," Martinsburg Police Department Patrolman Stephen Strickler testified Friday.

Strickler said police deployed a Taser, causing Smith-Decicio to drop the weapon. Spent shell casings and no bullets were found in the gun's six-shot cylinder, Strickler said.

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In an autopsy, the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Amundson had two bullet wounds in the back of his head, one in his right shoulder, another on the left side of his chest and one on his left lower back, Martinsburg Police Department Detective Sgt. G.B. Swartwood testified.

The sixth bullet fired from the gun hasn't been accounted for, Swartwood said.

Amundson was found face down in a small pool of blood that had formed around his head by the time Swartwood said he saw the body about 4:30 p.m.

A two-prong rotisserie fork was lying near Amundson's hand, Swartwood said.

At the police station, Swartwood said the defendant initially agreed to give a statement about what happened, but then stopped the proceeding when the detective began explaining her constitutional right to retain an attorney.

Swartwood said he was told by a nurse at Eastern Regional Jail that Smith-Decicio said she was sexually assaulted, but she declined to talk to police about the alleged crime when they arrived to investigate.

The results of an assault examination at City Hospital in Martinsburg, were not disclosed during Friday's hearing. Swartwood told Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Sanders that he had not had enough time to fully review the report that he obtained Wednesday.

Mary Quickly, Berkeley County's 911 Center/Central Dispatch director, confirmed her office received a mobile phone call about an hour before dispatchers were notified of the shooting by Cindy L. Smith, a younger sister of Smith-Decicio who resides in Berkeley County.

Smith, 33, told police that she believed her older sister and Amundson were about to begin arguing in the hours before the shooting happened, and she left the home, Swartwood said in his complaint against Smith-Decicio.

When Smith returned after being contacted by her sister at 3:04 p.m., she smelled gunpowder in the house, and Smith-Decicio told her that she shot Amundson, Swartwood said.

Strickler said there was evidence a domestic altercation had occurred in the home. The television was on, but knocked over on its side. In the kitchen, coffee had spilled from a broken pot, chairs were overturned and knives were lying on the floor. A Bible was found on the living room floor after Smith-Decicio was handcuffed, Strickler said.

"It might have been on her lap," the officer said.

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