Jailhouse tape tells of killing

Defense attorneys raise questions about recording

`The tape has problems'

Judge to decide on its admissibility before Raras trial

January 07, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore man charged in the 1998 death of an Elkridge woman describes in grisly detail in a secretly tape-recorded conversation how he killed a woman in Howard County that year.

That conversation with a police informant exposed a plot allegedly launched by the woman's mother-in-law, a 63-year-old Parkville woman, and led to two arrests in a case that had been stalled for months.

Prosecutors played the tape yesterday during a court hearing and are hoping to use it during the trial this month of the mother-in-law, Emilia D. Raras, who has been charged with first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They accuse her of hiring Ardale D. Tickles, 20, to kill her daughter-in-law, Sara J. Williamson Raras, 35, in revenge for being slighted.

But Emilia Raras' defense attorneys argued yesterday that the tape should be ruled out as evidence. They said it is unreliable, does not name Sara Raras as the victim and they will not get the chance to cross-examine the informant, who is missing, or Tickles, who likely will assert his right against self-incrimination. His trial on murder charges is scheduled for March.

The tape recording is filled with background noise and music playing in the Baltimore County Detention Center, where the informant secretly taped Tickles in June. Tickles was awaiting trial in an unrelated attempted-murder case. Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney said he would rule on the admissibility of the tape, or portions of it, after another hearing next week.

On the tape, which is filled with slang and expletives, Tickles describes the slaying of a woman, how he broke through her window and tracked her down.

"I mean I went up in there, broke through the window," Tickles tells the informant, Edison Michael George, 25.

Tickles tells George how he grabbed the woman and threw her to the ground. "She's like no, don't kill me," Tickles says.

He took a knife and cut her, screamed at her and stabbed her more -- despite her pleas for mercy, according to the tape. He continued, he tells George, because he was concerned about how victims in movies were sometimes able to escape their would-be killers and call authorities.

Tickles also says that he was hired to kill the woman. "The lady where I was working at, she told me, I'll give you, you know, $5,000 to go hit this lady off for me," Tickles says. Tickles describes the woman who hired him as an "Asiatic black sister" and as "Oriental" and "Chinese."

Emilia Raras is Filipino. Police and prosecutors allege that Raras was upset over treatment by her daughter-in-law, who was engaged in a bitter divorce and custody battle over her then 1-year- old son with her husband, Lorenzo Raras.

Emilia Raras hired Tickles, a co-worker at a nursing home, to kill her daughter-in-law for $3,000, police and prosecutors allege.

During her tape-recorded interrogation with Howard County police in August, Emilia Raras admitted hiring Tickles but denied she wanted to have her daughter-in-law killed. She told detectives that she only wanted him to "stone the house" and maybe hurt her daughter-in-law.

Prosecutors played the tape of Tickles and George in hopes of using it as evidence. They claim they can use the tape even though Tickles and George likely will not testify because Tickles told George things that implicate himself.

But Emilia Raras' defense attorneys want the tape excluded because they cannot cross-examine Tickles or George to determine their truthfulness or reliability. George fled Maryland and is wanted in North Carolina on a robbery charge.

George approached Baltimore County police June 1 and told detectives that a cellmate had told him about the killing of a woman. That day, Baltimore County police Detective Philip Marll went to the jail and wired George so he could tape Tickles.

Raras' attorneys also questioned the quality of the tape, which they claim contains 288 inaudible utterances.

Sweeney clearly seemed troubled by the tape.

"The tape has problems," Sweeney said. "I don't even know where in the detention center" it was made.

"Nobody followed him where he went, whether he had conversations beforehand," Sweeney added.

Tickles also had help from a friend, Tanisha L. Hodge of Baltimore. Hodge rented the car that Tickles drove to Sara Raras' house, and described to the Howard County grand jury her role in helping to cover up evidence, ac- cording to grand jury transcripts released yesterday.

Prosecutors granted Hodge immunity in exchange for her cooperation and testimony.

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