Grandmother of murder victim testifies in deposition

Ailing health might prevent Della Louise Maphis from testifying at Darrol Chris Sands' murder trial

September 09, 2011|By DON AINES |
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The ailing grandmother of a murder victim testified Friday in a videotaped deposition that her granddaughter wanted Darrol Chris Sands to "leave her ... alone" just days before she was slain in 2008.

Della Louise Maphis testified in Washington County Circuit Court that she spent several days helping granddaughter Carol Marie Brown clean her Mitchell Avenue home and that Sands came by at least twice during that time.

Brown slept at Maphis' home during that period, except for Friday, April 18, 2008, when she went back to her own home to clean the kitchen, Maphis testified.

Brown, a single mother of two children, was found dead April 19, 2008, in a bathtub on the second floor of 457 Mitchell Ave. She died of asphyxia and stabbing, according to previous court statements.

Over a period of two years, authorities several times asked the public for help in tracking down her killer.

In December 2010, Sands, 43, formerly of Hagerstown, was indicted on charges of first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Brown, 22.

At the time Brown died, Sands lived across the street.

Sands' trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 31, but Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. said he was going to grant a motion from Sands' new defense attorney to postpone the trial.

Maphis was brought in for a video deposition because health issues might make her unavailable to testify at the trial, Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said afterward.

Maphis testified she and Brown spent about a week cleaning the house from top to bottom, including washing walls, floors, curtains and linens, as well as the second-floor bathroom where Brown's body was found.

Police found DNA and fingerprint evidence from Sands in the house, according to a videotaped interview of Sands played at a suppression hearing earlier this year.

While the women were cleaning the house, Sands came by at least twice — once to ask Brown to give him a ride and another time to work on Brown's television, Maphis testified. Other neighbors, including Sands' wife and her children, stopped by at other times, she testified.

Cirincion asked Maphis if Brown said anything about Sands, prompting defense attorney James J. Podlas to object that her answer could violate the hearsay rule. Cirincion said the question was asked to establish that Brown wanted to "terminate her relationship with Mr. Sands."

Long overruled the objection.

"She said she wished he would leave her ... alone," Maphis testified.

On cross-examination, Podlas showed Maphis a transcript of an interview she did with Hagerstown police in October 2008 in which she said Brown complained about Sands ringing the doorbell constantly until she would let him in. He asked her to point out where Brown said she wanted Sands to leave her alone.

Although Maphis could not point to anything else in the transcript, she testified on further questioning by Cirincion that she told police her granddaughter wanted Sands to leave her alone in an unrecorded interview in June 2008.

At one point during the deposition, Maphis looked in Sands' direction and said: "Stop looking at me."

Judge John H. McDowell last month denied a motion to suppress Sands' videotaped interview with homicide investigators after his Aug. 11, 2010, arrest on drugs charges, Cirincion said.

"I didn't kill her and that's it," Sands said in the interview before he stopped answering questions.

 However, investigators revealed during the course of the interview that evidence collected by police included Sands' semen inside Brown and his palm print on the bathtub where her body was found.

In an unrelated case, Sands pleaded guilty in February to two counts of distribution of cocaine and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended, court records said.

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