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Crime-scene photos, other forensic evidence presented in murder trial

Darrol Chris Sands is accused of murdering Carol Brown, 22-year-old mother of two

February 15, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Carol Marie Brown
File photo

Crime-scene photographs of Carol Brown’s body and other forensic evidence were shown to the jury Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court in the second day of trial for a Hagerstown man accused of killing her nearly four years ago.

Darrol Chris Sands, 44, is serving a 15-year state prison sentence on a 2011 drug-trafficking conviction.

He was indicted in 2010 with the April 19, 2008, murder of Brown, a 22-year-old mother of two found dead in the bathtub of her Mitchell Avenue apartment in Hagerstown.

Jeffrey Kercheval of the Western Maryland Regional Crime Laboratory testified Wednesday that discoloration to Brown’s face was indicative of capillary damage from strangulation, although he said, “I’ve never seen it to that extent.”

Kercheval also testified about bloodstains collected from the comforter and sheets of Brown’s bed, as well as blood evidence and fingerprints from the bathroom and other rooms.

Some, but not all, of the fingerprints could be linked to individuals, Kercheval testified. Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael said in his opening statement on Tuesday that the palm print on the bathtub belonged to Sands.

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A bathtub was brought into the courtroom for Kercheval to demonstrate where the left-hand print was found. He indicated it was near where Brown’s head was positioned in the tub.

On cross-examination by defense attorney James Podlas, Kercheval testified there was no way to know when the print was left on the tub.

Brown’s body was in complete rigor mortis at 10 p.m., Kercheval testified. That usually takes at least six hours, but cold or heat can slow or accelerate the process, he testified.

“The main complicating factor in this case is the bathtub,” Kercheval testified.

No one knows what the water temperature was when the body was placed in it, he testified.

Brown was last seen alive at 1:30 p.m. on April 19. Her body was found at about 8:30 p.m.

When the body was removed and the tub drained, a knife was found in the tub wrapped in a towel, Kercheval testified. It was tested for fingerprints, but none was found, he testified.

Dr. Zabiullah Ali of the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner’s Office testified Brown had been choked to the point of death with a towel, rope or other ligature, not by someone’s bare hands. She also had stab wounds to her throat, chest and abdomen, he testified.

Serologist Teri Zerbe testified that vaginal swabs and cuttings from a bed comforter, sheets, underwear and other items were tested by the Maryland State Police Crime Lab, with some items sent to another lab for DNA testing.

Blood and semen were found on some items, she testified.

In his opening statement, Podlas said Sands had consensual sex with Brown the day before the murder, and evidence of other men was found in her house.

Sands’ semen was found in Brown, Michael said on Tuesday.

Sands’ trial is expected to conclude next week. If convicted of the most serious charge of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison.

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