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Families of Pryor and Munson each want custody of couple's children

Children living with brother, sister-in-law of man charged in their mother's slaying

Children living with brother, sister-in-law of man charged in their mother's slaying

April 01, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Family members of a man accused of killing the mother of his children were in court Monday for an emotional custody hearing and now await the decision of the Washington County Circuit Court domestic relations master.

The mother of Alison Munson wants to play an active role in the lives of her two grandchildren, her attorney said Monday afternoon.

In January, a judge granted custody of the children to Donald and Joellen Pryor, the parents of Douglas Pryor, who is charged with first-degree murder in Munson's death.

Munson, 31 was found dead in a closet of her Halfway apartment in December 2007.

Douglas Pryor also faces first-degree murder charges in the death of Smithsburg police officer Christopher Shane Nicholson, who was killed the same night as Munson.

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Prosecutors on Friday filed a notice of their intention to seek the death penalty if Pryor is convicted of the Nicholson's death.

The children, a 9-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl, have been living since January with Troy and Geri Pryor, Douglas Pryor's brother and sister-in-law.

Troy and Geri Pryor on Monday went before the master to ask for custody and limited guardianship of the children. Donald and Joellen Pryor, the children's paternal grandparents, agreed to transfer custody to their son and daughter-in-law.

Troy and Geri Pryor have three children and can provide a positive and loving environment for the boy and girl, according to documents filed in Washington County Circuit Court.

Douglas Pryor signed a letter Feb. 16 consenting to the transfer of custody from his parents to his brother and sister-in-law. The letter was filed by the family's attorney, Timothy Gordon.

In a short handwritten note addressed to Gordon, Pryor thanked him for helping his family.

Jacqueline and Steven Smith, Alison Munson's mother and stepfather, requested joint legal custody of the children, according to documents filed in February. The couple asked for a visitation schedule and access to the children's school, medical and legal records, documents show.

The 9-year-old boy wants to live with his aunt and uncle, and the couple doesn't want to split up the children, so the Smiths are not contesting physical custody, Jacqueline Smith said Monday afternoon in court.

But she does want to know how he's doing in school, and she wants to be involved in the children's lives, Smith said.

"I feel that I need to keep my daughter alive," Smith said through sobs.

Under questioning by her attorney, Bernard W. Semler II, Smith talked about a recent incident during which the 1-year-old girl was hospitalized. The Pryors hadn't told her about the hospitalization until after the fact, Smith said. Had she known the child was in the hospital, she would have visited, Smith said.

Both Jacqueline and Steven Smith, of Great Cacapon, W.Va., said they would be able to maintain a civil relationship with the Pryors, and they would help make decisions in the best interest of the children.

"We're trying to be reasonable in light of all the things me and my wife have been through," said Steven Smith, who said he raised Munson as though she were his own daughter.

Gordon said he didn't think joint legal custody was a necessary measure to keep the maternal family involved.

Daniel P. Dwyer, a Washington County Circuit Court domestic relations master, said it seemed that all parties involved were concerned about the welfare of the children. He took the matter under advisement.

According to court documents, Pryor was being held at the Division of Correction Maryland Transitional Center hospital. A prisons spokeswoman Friday confirmed Pryor was in DOC custody at the request of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Pryor was shot during an exchange of gunfire with officers who took him into custody in the Ringgold area Dec. 21, 2007, the night Munson and Nicholson were killed, according to published reports.

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