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Pryor loses challenges on searches

February 23, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The defense team of a man who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and a Smithsburg police officer in 2007 suffered a setback Monday in Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court.

Judge Louise G. Scrivener denied a motion from defendant Douglas Wayne Pryor to suppress evidence that authorities obtained during searches of his home and the pickup truck he was driving on the night of the crimes, according to court documents.

Pryor, 30, 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 his ex-girlfriend, Alison Munson, who also was the mother of Pryor's two children.

Both of the crimes occurred the night of Dec. 19, 2007.

Pryor is being tried in Montgomery County because the defense team was granted a change of venue.

According to an opinion entered Monday, Pryor contested whether his parents, Donald and JoEllen Pryor, had the right to let police search a portion of their Welty Church Road home in which Pryor, Munson and their children lived while the couple was together.

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In her decision to deny the motion to suppress evidence, Scrivener wrote that "a warrantless entry is valid when based upon the consent of a third party whom the police, at the time of entry, reasonably believe to possess common authority over the premises.

"Both Donald and JoEllen (Pryor) invited officers to their home. Donald led the officers there, walked around the home with them and opened a gun cabinet for their inspection. While the wing of the home was added after the house was originally built, there is nothing in the evidence that would lead an outside observer or officer to believe that the home operated as two separate households.

"The facts available to the officers would leave a reasonable person to believe that Donald and JoEllen had authority to consent to a search of the defendant's wing of the home."

Pryor also unsuccessfully challenged two searches of the pickup truck that he was driving on the night of the deaths.

On the night of Dec. 19, 2007, police received a call saying Pryor harmed the mother of his children at her Halfway residence and possibly was headed to his home off Welty Church Road in the Smithsburg area.

Munson, 31, was dead when police arrived at her apartment.

Deputies en route to the area of Pryor's house asked the Smithsburg Police Department for assistance.

Nicholson, 25, the only Smithsburg police officer on duty, was waiting for backup in a driveway off Welty Church Road when he was confronted by Pryor and was shot, according to Herald-Mail records. When deputies arrived, they found Nicholson lying near his police cruiser in the middle of a field. Nicholson later was pronounced dead.

Pryor was taken into custody a short time later when he was shot in an exchange of gunfire with Washington County Special Response Team members.

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