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Pryor murder case goes to District Court

January 17, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Security was tight Wednesday for a preliminary hearing in Washington County District Court for a man charged in the Dec. 19, 2007, stabbing death of his former girlfriend and the fatal shooting of a Smithsburg Police officer.

Washington County District Judge Ralph H. France II found at the end of the hearing that there was sufficient evidence to send Douglas Wayne Pryor's case to Circuit Court.

Pryor, 29, of Smithsburg is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson and second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Alison Munson.

Assistant State's Attorney Steven Kessell said the state had not yet requested the death penalty, which could apply in Pryor's case because he is accused of killing a police officer. Kessell said the deadline for the request to be made is five days before the start of the trial.

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Pryor, who is recovering from gunshot wounds received during a shootout with police before his arrest, was in a wheelchair and had a cast on his right arm.

Six police officers from several departments stood guard in the courtroom, and the first two rows of benches were closed with yellow police tape.

Five correctional officers were stationed within a few feet of Pryor in the courtroom.

"Do we really need five officers standing around him?" France asked after Pryor was wheeled in.

"Yes," one of the officers said.

Pryor showed no emotion Wednesday as Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Kenneth A. Barnhart described the alleged events of Dec. 19.

Barnhart said police responding to Munson's Halfway apartment found a trail of blood from the living room to the kitchen closet, where her body was found.

Munson was stabbed "either 14 or 16 times" and covered with a blanket, trash can and trash bags, Barnhart said.

"The only thing you could see was a pair of feet against the closet wall," Barnhart said.

Police found a note on Munson's body that indicated she was having a relationship with a black man, Barnhart said. When asked exactly what the note said, Barnhart said he could not recall.

Barnhart said Nicholson, who was called for help by the sheriff's department after Munson's body was discovered, died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Pryor's sister-in-law, Geri Pryor, told police that Douglas Pryor asked her to meet him at his parents' house on Welty Church Road in Smithsburg, Barnhart said.

Douglas Pryor was pulling out of the driveway when Geri Pryor arrived, Barnhart said. The two met in the middle of Welty Church Road, where Douglas Pryor asked his sister-in-law to take his children. He then told her he was going to shoot Nicholson, who was stationed in a driveway about 1,000 feet away waiting for backup, Barnhart testified.

Police found almost a dozen shell casings from a .40-caliber handgun in the driveway near Pryor's parents' home. Those casings came from Nicholson's gun, Barnhart said.

Because of the positioning of the casings and the fact there were no bullet holes in the car, police believe Nicholson was outside his car when he was shot, Barnhart said.

No casings were found in the driveway from either of Pryor's guns; police found a .22-caliber magnum rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun in Pryor's truck after he was arrested, as well as a blood-stained hunting knife, Barnhart said.

However, .22-caliber bullets and 12-gauge slugs and buckshot were found in Pryor's truck, prompting police to suspect that Pryor might have shot Nicholson from his truck, Barnhart said.

Pryor's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brian A. Hutchison, said the first-degree murder charge against Pryor should be dropped because the state could not prove that Nicholson's shooting was premeditated.

Assistant State's Attorney Steven Kessell called Hutchison's request "absurd," citing Pryor's conversation with his sister-in-law.

"'You see that cop down there? I'm gonna kill him.' What more evidence do you need?" Kessell asked in court.

France denied Hutchison's request.

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