Witness in murder case jailed Trial to begin next week

April 28, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A woman who was in Lebanon when she was supposed to testify at the murder trial of her ex-husband is now at the county jail to guarantee her appearance in Howard Circuit Court next week.

Circuit Judge Dennis Sweeney set the bond at $150,000 for Virginia Dorhan Hagez, 44, of Richmond, Va., after a county lTC prosecutor said she fears the witness may flee the country again.

Virginia authorities arrested Mrs. Hagez last week after she refused to accept a court summons. They found the woman in a closet behind a rack of clothing at a relative's home.

Mrs. Hagez is to testify at the trial of her former husband, Adel George Hagez. He is accused of first-degree murder in the slaying of the woman's boyfriend at a Jessup motel in June.

Mr. Hagez, 45, is free on bond. His former wife posted 10 percent of a $200,000 bond for him in July 1991, court records show.

But Judge Sweeney said he has "grave concerns" that Mrs. Hagez will not appear for the trial of her former husband, who is accused of shooting Riad S. Hijas of Richmond on June 22, 1991. Mrs. Hagez witnessed the shooting.

"It is clear to this court that Mrs. Hagez would like not to be anywhere near this case," Judge Sweeney said.

The judge noted that Maryland law permits prosecutors to detain key witnesses in serious cases.

But James Hanson, an Ellicott City attorney for Mrs. Hagez, called the prosecution's efforts to ensure his client's court appearance "absurd."

Mrs. Hagez, who operates four restaurants with her former husband, told Judge Sweeney that she intends to testify and has no plans to flee to Lebanon, her native country.

"I'm not here to talk about the accident," said Mrs. Hagez, who immigrated to the United States 26 years ago. "I'm here to see if I can get out [of the detention center] and come back on the day of the trial."

Mrs. Hagez was arrested on April 22 after authorities found her in a closet at the home of a relative's brother-in-law, county police Detective Frank Dayhoff said.

She refused to accept a court summons for an Henrico County, Va., court hearing to determine whether she should travel to Maryland for her former husband's trial.

Authorities attempted to serve Mrs. Hagez with the summons seven times -- five times at her home and twice at her former husband's home -- before an anonymous caller reported where they would find her, Detective Dayhoff said.

The caller also said that Mrs. Hagez and another witness were planning to leave for Lebanon to avoid testifying at the trial, the investigator said.

After Mrs. Hagez was arrested in Virginia, she was brought to the Howard Detention Center and was denied bond.

Mr. Hagez was scheduled to stand trial in December, but the proceedings were postponed after the prosecution could not find his former wife.

Detective Dayhoff said he called one of Mrs. Hagez's restaurants in early December and was told by her former husband that she was in Lebanon on a business trip. She returned to the United States two days after the case was postponed.

"The state has a legitimate concern," Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage said. "I don't believe we can secure her attendance."

But Mr. Hanson said incarceration is not necessary to guarantee that Mrs. Hagez testifies against her former husband.

"There is nothing that she did to cause suspicion," Mr. Hanson argued.

"There is absolutely no evidence of flight," he said.

Ms. Gage did not voice opposition to setting a bond for Mrs. Hagez, but requested that the court set enough conditions so that her appearance in court next week is guaranteed.

If Mrs. Hagez is able to post the $150,000 bond, she must forfeit her passport and remain in the county during Mr. Hagez's trial. She must provide officials with her county address and report to the county Department of Parole and Probation three times a day.

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