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Pryor's relatives contest custody decision

Relatives of accused killer file a notice of exception to sharing custody with victim's mother

Relatives of accused killer file a notice of exception to sharing custody with victim's mother

April 17, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Family members of a man accused of killing the mother of his children have filed a notice of exception to a Washington County domestic relations master's decision regarding custody.

Alison Munson, 31, was found dead in a closet of her Halfway apartment on Dec. 19, 2007, shortly after her death.

The father of her children, Douglas Pryor, faces first-degree murder charges in her death and in the death of Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson, who was killed the same night as Munson.

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

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Master Daniel P. Dwyer awarded joint legal custody to Munson's mother and Troy and Geri Pryor.

The attorney for the Pryors filed an exception to the master's findings on April 10. Sharing joint legal custody is not in the children's best interest, the Pryors' attorney, Timothy S. Gordon, wrote in court documents. Shared legal custody also is impractical because of the significant distance between the families, Gordon wrote. He requested another hearing in the matter.

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, according to documents.

"I feel that I need to keep my daughter alive," Smith, of Great Cacapon, W.Va., said during the custody hearing.

The master did not grant joint legal custody to Steven Smith. He raised Munson, but was not her biological father, Smith said during the March hearing.

By granting joint legal custody to three people, the master ensured that at least two would have to agree when making medical, educational and religious decisions about the children, Dwyer wrote in court documents.

During a March hearing, everyone agreed the children should live with Troy and Geri Pryor because the 9-year-old boy wants to live with his aunt and uncle.

Prosecutors have filed a notice of intention to seek the death penalty if Douglas Pryor is convicted of Nicholson's death.

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