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Murder trial under way for Hagerstown man accused in roommate's death

April 25, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Darrell Hicks
Darrell Hicks

HAGERSTOWN — The trial of a Hagerstown man accused of fatally stabbing his roommate and leaving the body in a closet of their apartment for days began Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court with testimony by the woman who discovered the victim.

Darrell Hicks, 54, of 211 W. Franklin St., Apt. 3, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and carrying a dangerous weapon in the death of roommate Darrin Bernard Pressman, 45, whom Hagerstown police believe died on or about May 30, 2011, although his body was not discovered until June 3.

“We have the state saying ‘We have a body, and we have a roommate,’” Assistant Public Defender Kathleen McClernan told the jury in her opening statement. “But that doesn’t equal murder.”

In his opening statement, Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson said Pressman’s girlfriend, Karen Haws, had spoken with him for the last time on Sunday, May 29.

Haws testified that the last time she spoke with Pressman he was “very aggravated” with Hicks and intended to move out of the apartment.

Pressman did not answer his phone on Monday and Tuesday, and she went to the apartment on Wednesday and Thursday looking for him, speaking with Hicks on both days, Haws testified.

On Wednesday, Hicks told her he did not know where Pressman was, but on Thursday he told her he gave Pressman $800, and he left town, Haws testified.

The apartment also smelled, she testified, “like garbage ... and Pine-Sol.”

Haws testified she returned on Friday and “sort of pushed past” Hicks, going to Pressman’s bedroom, where she saw his decomposing body lying on the floor, his upper body in the closet.

“I ran out past ‘Doc’ (Hick’s nickname) and said, ‘Oh my God, he’s dead,’” Haws testified. She ran to a nearby bar, and a bartender came back to see the body before calling 911, she testified.

The bartender, Johnny Hopkins, testified Hicks was sitting on his bed folding laundry when he entered the apartment.

“I smelled that real bad odor, and I said to myself, ‘This isn’t good,’” Hopkins testified.

Pressman had been stabbed several times, according to police charging documents.

“Me and my boyfriend heard arguing and banging and clanging” on the night of May 29-30, upstairs neighbor Melissa Robison testified.

On cross-examination by Assistant Public Defender Kathleen McClernan, Robison testified she did not tell police in a June 7 interview that she heard arguing downstairs.

Police officers testified about the crime scene and the odor coming from the apartment.

“Outside it was strong. Inside it was overwhelming,” Detective Tammy Jurado testified.

When interviewed at police headquarters, Hicks told her about giving Pressman the $800 as a way of “thanking him for his service to the country in the military,” Jurado testified.

Hicks told investigators he never went into Pressman’s room out of respect for his privacy. As for the smell, Hicks said he had allergies, burned a lot of incense and thought the smell was coming from another apartment, she testified.

In cross-examination of investigators, Villa asked about the other door to Pressman’s bedroom, which opened to the second-floor hallway of the building. 

Villa also asked Jurado about crime-scene photographs in which items in the room appeared to have been moved between photos being taken. Jurado testified she did not take the photos and could offer no explanation.

Although the prosecution’s case was not complete, Villa asked to call Jurado as a defense witness.

Police had not checked to see if there was any activity on Pressman’s bank account or missing credit card, and did not review his phone and computer records, Jurado testified.

The trial before Judge Daniel P. Dwyer resumes this morning and is currently scheduled to end Friday.

If convicted of the most serious charge, Hicks could face life in prison.

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Editor's note: This story was edited April 27, 2012, to correct the name of the assistant public defender who cross-examined witness Melissa Robison.

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