2 charged in killing of woman in Elkridge

Victim's mother-in-law, jail inmate are accused

August 25, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef and Del Quentin Wilber | Nancy A. Youssef and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A National Security Agency statistician brutally stabbed to death at her Elkridge home nine months ago was a victim of a plot by her mother-in-law, Howard County police charged yesterday.

Police said Sara J. Williamson Raras' mother-in-law was charged yesterday afternoon with hiring a hitman -- a Baltimore co-worker whom she allegedly offered $5,000 to kill Raras, 35, the mother of a 1-year-old boy, according to court charging documents.

Officials said they are trying to determine a motive. Police have arrested the mother-in-law, a Parkville resident, and the inmate, who was in Baltimore County Detention Center facing attempted murder charges in an unrelated case.

Raras' throat was slashed, and she was stabbed numerous times in her family room in the 6600 block of Meadowfield Court. The gruesome nature of the crime shocked the community, prompting a pledge by Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay to quickly solve it.

Police determined that Nov. 14 or 15 the killer entered through a smashed porch window, which was not connected to the home's alarm system -- a clue that the person might have had knowledge of the home. A videocassette recorder was missing, and a machete was found outside the house. Police have not determined whether it was the weapon used in the killing.

Investigators initially focused on Raras' estranged husband, Lorenzo D. Raras, 33, with whom she was fighting for custody of their child in a "bitter divorce," charging documents said. Her son was at Lorenzo Raras' parents' house, with the mother-in-law, when the killing occurred.

But the focus of the investigation shifted June 1 when Baltimore County officials said a confidential informant had told them that an inmate at the county detention center was talking about a killing in Howard County, charging documents said.

The confidential informant was wired by investigators with a microphone, and a conversation with the inmate was taped. The inmate allegedly said he knocked at the door and "saw the victim move towards the telephone at which point he broke the first-floor window and entered the house."

Then, the inmate said, "he stabbed the victim." He said he was hired by an "Oriental woman."

During a three-hour interview yesterday morning with Howard County police, the inmate confirmed that the tape was accurate, police and charging documents said.

He also told authorities that the victim's mother-in-law drove him to Sara Raras' home about a day before the killing and pointed out the house.

Raras' mother-in-law was arrested about 2 p.m.

"We are trying to reconstruct the whole crime scene," including when the alleged plot began, said Lt. Stephen M. Prozeralik, who heads Howard County's criminal investigations unit.

Friends of Sara Raras have told authorities, according to charging documents, that she was afraid someone in her husband's family "would do something to her to assure that the child remained with the husband." The documents also said the child "held great significance" to the mother-in-law.

Emilia D. Raras, 63, of the first block of Pearlwood Court in Parkville was charged with solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Authorities charged Ardale Tickles, 19, of the 1600 block of E. Northern Parkway with first-degree murder.

Tickles had been in the Baltimore County Detention Center since April, charged in a robbery in March at a McDonald's on Loch Raven Boulevard. Police said the manager was shot in the abdomen during the robbery. Tickles' trial in that case had been scheduled to start today in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Emilia Raras was being questioned late last night by Howard County police. She and Tickles were being held at the Howard County Southern District lockup.

Officials believe Emilia Raras and Tickles met while "employed by an elder care facility in Baltimore" between July 1998 and February, said Sgt. Morris Carroll, a Howard County police spokesman.

Sara Raras, who was raised in Albuquerque, N.M., moved to this area with her husband in the 1980s. She worked as a statistician at the NSA at Fort Meade.

Her family called her "brilliant" in her career and said her death was a loss of a "beautiful" life.

"I thought when something happened, I would feel better," her sister, Nancy Lewis, said yesterday, reacting to the arrests. "I feel worse. [Emilia Raras] was someone she really cared about."

Lewis said her sister liked her husband's mother and tried to please her.

"I never believed anyone could hurt my sister," Lewis said. "I always lived a more idealized life. I think that is gone forever."

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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