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Police gathering details in Washington County double slaying

January 03, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Two weeks after a Halfway mother and a Smithsburg police officer were slain, investigators are still trying to make sense of what happened, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said Wednesday.

Douglas Wayne Pryor, 29, of 23432 Welty Church Road in Smithsburg, is charged in the stabbing death of his former girlfriend, Alison Munson, 31, of Halfway, and in the fatal shooting of Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson, 25.

Pryor was taken into custody late Dec. 19, 2007, after he was shot in an exchange of gunfire with Washington County Special Response Team members. He was taken that night to Washington County Hospital.

Pryor was released from Washington County Hospital two days later and taken to a University of Maryland hospital, Sheriff's Department Investigator Greg Alton said Wednesday. Pryor was released to a state Division of Correction hospital ward Dec. 26, 2007, Alton said.

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Pryor was being held Wednesday by the Division of Correction, at the request of Washington County, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokeswoman Rosa Cruz said. Prison officials would not say if Pryor was in a hospital ward.

Mullendore said Wednesday that it was not clear how many times Pryor was shot. Investigators also do not know how many officers fired at Pryor, he said.

Pryor is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in Nicholson's death and with second-degree murder in Munson's death, court records show.

Law enforcement personnel were conducting an internal investigation into the shooting, led by Maryland State Police, Mullendore said.

Investigators found Munson's body in a closet of her Halfway apartment on the night of Dec. 19. A blanket and a trash can covered her body, court documents show. A hand-written note, the contents of which Mullendore declined to release, was left on top of her body.

Shortly after investigators found Munson's body, they received word that Nicholson had died of gunshot wounds.

Deputies received information from Pryor's mother that he was headed to her Smithsburg home, court records show.

Deputies headed to the area of Pryor's house on Welty Church Road asked the Smithsburg Police Department for assistance.

Nicholson, the only Smithsburg Police officer on duty, was waiting for backup in a driveway off of Welty Church Road when he was confronted by Pryor and shot, Mullendore previously alleged.

When asked whether Nicholson was following orders when he went to the scene Dec. 19, Mullendore referred the question to Chief Charles R. Stanford of the Smithsburg Police Department.

"I don't think he had done anything out of the ordinary," Mullendore said.

Nicholson was waiting a distance away from the scene, Mullendore said.

"He did nothing that was not procedure," Stanford said Wednesday night. "He did everything he was supposed to do."

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