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Smithsburg absorbs resolution of murder case

May 01, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

SMITHSBURG -- Told that Douglas Pryor had pleaded guilty Friday to murdering two people, Merry Lehman of Leitersburg didn't hesitate.

"He is guilty and thank God he did the right thing (by pleading)," she said while shopping in Smithsburg.

Others had similar reactions to the conclusion of the case 17 months after Alison Munson, Pryor's ex-girlfriend, was stabbed to death and Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson was fatally shot.

Pryor admitted Friday he killed Nicholson and Munson. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder four police officers by shooting at them.

He was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences, with no possibility of parole.

"He probably deserves worse ..." Robert Smith of Smithsburg said. "He should have gotten the lethal injection."

Smith said he considered Nicholson "a pretty good cop."

Rochelle Morrell, executive director of Children's Village of Washington County, said she thought justice was done.

"Officer Nicholson was a volunteer instructor at Children's Village," Morrell said. "He was such a fine young man who related well to the children he taught."

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Greg Heiston of Smithsburg, who retired after 20 years with the Maryland State Police, said he's known the Pryor family for years and also knew Nicholson.

"I believe in the death penalty ..." Heiston said. "(But) my feeling is he would sit on death row for a long time, maybe never (be) put to death."

"Even if Pryor had gotten the death penalty, the chances are slim to none he'd actually be executed," Hagerstown Police Department Lt. Michael L. King said by phone after leaving the Montgomery County court proceeding.

King, one of the four officers Pryor shot at, said life without parole in prison "was as good an outcome as we could hope for."

"This will save the family the heartache of a trial and appeals," he said.

In court, Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy 1st Class Todd Crowder said the community will never be the same again. "Vengeance is for the Lord God," he said.

"It raised a lot of emotion in this area," Lehman said.

While picking up Chinese food in Smithsburg Friday, Jack Reeder of Beaver Creek Estates said he opposes the death penalty.

"All along, I've been kind of against capital punishment because I felt some people was executed that was really innocent," he said.

For Pryor, life in prison was a just sentence, he said.

"If you pen him up in a cage for the rest of his life, that takes care of the problem," Reeder said.

"I just think it's a sad situation," said Nelson Little, who lives near Smithsburg. "I wonder why things like that happen."

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the plea and sentence end the case, but doesn't eliminate the pain of the killings.

"There is no good outcome to this situation, however it ends up because you can't undo the tragedies that took place that night," she said in a voice-mail message.

Staff writers Marlo Barnhart and Erin Julius contributed to this story.

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