The jury heard testimony from beyond the grave Friday in the murder trial of Darrol Sands as a videotaped deposition from the victim’s late grandmother was played in Washington County Circuit Court in Hagerstown.
Also on the stand was a former Hagerstown man who testified Sands told him in 2008 that he had killed 22-year-old Carol Brown, although police only learned of that conversation two weeks ago.
Brown was found strangled and stabbed in the bathtub of her Mitchell Avenue home in Hagerstown on April 19, 2008. Sands was indicted for first-degree murder in 2010.
Della Maphis gave her videotaped deposition in September 2011, weeks before her death.
Maphis testified she spent the week before her granddaughter’s murder helping clean her home. During that time, Sands, who lived across the street, came to Brown’s home at least twice by himself, she testified.
“She said she wished he would leave her ... alone,” Maphis testified.
She said Sands would ring the doorbell repeatedly until Brown answered it.
“She said he was getting on her nerves all the time, laying on it,” Maphis said of the doorbell.
Sands was in the courtroom when the video was made in September. At one point, Maphis looked in his direction and said: “Stop looking at me.”
William Fales of Greencastle, Pa., testified his parents lived on Mitchell Avenue in 2008. When he visited them, Sands often asked Fales for cigarettes, and they would talk, Fales testified.
A few months after the murder, Fales testified he asked Sands if there was any news about the case. Sands said police believed he killed Brown, Fales said.
“Well, did you do it?” Fales asked Sands.
“They just think I did it,” Sands told him, Fales said. Sands then said, “Yeah, I did it,” Fales testified.
On cross-examination by defense attorney James J. Podlas, Fales testified he thought Sands was joking. Even after learning Sands had been indicted, Fales — then living in Delaware — testified he did not tell police.
“I thought the little piece of information I had didn’t really matter,” Fales said.
However, on Feb. 3, an investigator with the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office left his card at Fales’ mother’s home. He subsequently met with the investigator and a Hagerstown police detective, Fales testified.
On cross-examination, Fales testified he did not know how police came to contact him and that he could not remember telling anyone else about the conversation with Sands.
Within days of being contacted by the state and a defense investigator, Fales testified he called and met with Pennsylvania State Police over concerns about suspicious vehicles parked near his rural home. In one instance, a driver made a handgun motion as he drove away, he said.
Sands’ semen was found on Brown’s bed and in her body, but traces of other people’s DNA were also found in the house, forensic experts have testified earlier in the trial. That included Michael Carson’s DNA in a speck of blood found on the bathroom door and a DNA profile consistent with Carson on a pair of Brown’s underwear.
Carson, who lived on Mitchell Avenue in 2008, testified he had sex three times with Brown a couple of weeks before her death. Carson also testified he used syringes to shoot heroin in her bathroom.
Carson testified he was at Brown’s house when it was raided by police on March 17, 2008, although he gave police a relative’s name and was not arrested.
In 2008, Carson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute narcotics and spent a year in state prison. Outside of the jury’s presence on Thursday he was questioned in court about his criminal record.
He said his conviction resulted from participating in two drug sales to a Washington County Narcotics Task Force informant he identified as Kristy Dawn Hoke.
Hoke, 29, of Hagerstown, was found murdered in a wooded area near Waynesboro, Pa., in April 2010.
Jeffrey E. Miles Sr., of Hagerstown is waiting trial in that killing. Prosecutors in Franklin County, Pa., are seeking the death penalty against Miles.
The state concluded it case Friday. The defense will resume its case on Tuesday.
Sands faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.