Jury begins deliberations in trial of Hagerstown man charged with fatally stabbing roommate

April 27, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • Darrell Hicks
Darrell Hicks

HAGERSTOWN — A Washington County Circuit Court jury began deliberations shortly before noon Friday in the case of Darrell Hicks, charged last year with murder after the decomposing body of his roommate was found in the West Franklin Street apartment they share.

The body of Darrin Pressman, 45, was found by his girlfriend lying partially in the closet of his bedroom on June 3, 2011. Maryland Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jack Titus testified during the three-day trial that Pressman had six stab wound to his torso and had probably been dead three to five days before the body was discovered.

Hicks, 54, and Pressman had gotten into a dispute on Sunday, May 29, and Pressman told girlfriend Karen Haws that he planned to move out of the apartment, Assistant State’s Attorney Leon Debes told the jury in his closing argument.

“Darrell got angry. Darrell got mad,” and stabbed Pressman as he opened the door that joined his bedroom to the rest of the apartment, Debes said. Pressman must have known his attacker or been ambushed by Hicks because he had no defensive wounds. Debes said.

Hicks lied to Haws about where Pressman was, telling her and later the police that he had given Pressman $800 and he had gone on a drinking spree to Baltimore or Williamsport, Debes said.

While Haws became hysterical and physically ill when she discovered the body, Debes noted another witness testified Hicks was sitting on his bed folding laundry.

There was also no sign of forced entry to the apartment and nothing of value missing, making robbery or burglary unlikely, Debes argued.

“To be blunt, this case stinks,” Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa told the jury. She was referring to the odor witnesses testified they smelled before and after the body was discovered.

“Just because the apartment smelled does not mean Doc (Hicks’ nickname) killed Darrin Pressman,” Villa said.

Losing a roommate and Pressman’s contribution to the rent would not be a motive to kill, she said. How a person reacts to a traumatic event also differs from one person to another, she said.

Hicks also told police on the day the body was found that he had allergies, burned incense and that he thought the smell might have been coming from another apartment, Villa said.

Villa also attacked the state’s evidence, including blood in the doorway between Pressman’s and Hicks’ rooms, which was not tested for DNA or determined to be human or animal blood.

Pressman’s autopsy showed his blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit for intoxication, but crime scene photos only showed one can of beer in his room, Villa said.

Pressman could have gone out in the days before the body was found, taken someone back to the room and been murdered by that person, Villa said.

A conviction on the most serious charge, first-degree murder, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

When Hicks was taken into custody on June 3, he purportedly confessed to killing Pressman toward the end of a police interview lasting nearly nine hours. However, the statement was suppressed by Judge Daniel P. Dwyer, who ruled police continued questioning Hicks after he had invoked his right to remain silent.

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