Raras scores victory in Circuit Court

Judge rules parts of tape inadmissible

January 14, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The Parkville woman accused of hiring a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law in Elkridge in late 1998 won a victory in court yesterday when a judge ruled that key evidence apparently linking her to the crime could not be used at her trial.

Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ruled that statements implicating Emilia D. Raras, 63, on an informant's tape recording could be "devastating" because her attorneys would not be able to cross-examine the accused hit man, Ardale D. Tickles of Baltimore.

Tickles, 20, is expected to assert his right against self-incrimination if he is called to testify when Raras is tried this month on charges of first-degree murder.

Tickles, also facing first-degree murder charges, is scheduled for trial in March.

The tape was made June 1 by an inmate working for police at the Baltimore County jail, where Tickles was being held on unrelated charges.

During their conversation, Tickles said he was ordered to make a "hit," a contract killing, on a woman in Howard County. He also said that the person who paid him $5,000 was "Chinese," "Oriental" and "an Asiatic black sister" who was spit on by the woman. Raras was born in the Phillipines.

On the tape, Tickles never named the woman who hired him or the woman he allegedly stabbed to death. But prosecutors alleged that Raras paid him to kill her daughter-in-law, Sara J. Williams Raras, 35, of Meadowfield Court.

Raras felt slighted by Sara Raras, who was battling with her husband in a divorce case for custody of their then 1-year-old child, prosecutors said.

Raras' attorney, Clarke F. Ahlers, declined to characterize Sweeney's ruling but said, "Any time that the right of a person to cross-examine evidence is upheld, that's a victory for the truth-finding process."

Assistant State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell declined to discuss the significance of the ruling or what other evidence prosecutors have to link Raras to Tickles and the slaying of her daughter-in-law at the victim's home.

"We think the judge has given us a fair hearing," he said.

During a hearing on the tape yesterday, Campbell downplayed its significance even as he tried to get Sweeney to allow prosecutors to use it as evidence.

"It is of limited evidentiary value," Campbell said. "We don't consider this to be devastating evidence."

On the tape, Tickles uses the word "hit" three times. "The lady where I was working at, she told me, I'll give you, you know, five thousand dollars to go hit this lady off for me."

Tickles and Raras worked at the same nursing home.

But Sweeney didn't seem swayed by Campbell's argument. "It sounds like pretty powerful stuff," Sweeney said.

Police were led to Tickles when the inmate, Edison George, approached Baltimore County detectives and told them that Tickles had described a killing. They put a tape recorder on George that day, and George spoke to Tickles in the jail. Since then, George has fled Maryland and is wanted in North Carolina on robbery charges.

On the portions that Sweeney allowed into evidence, Tickles describes the brutality of the crime. Sweeney said those portions of the tape could be played for jurors because Tickles clearly implicates himself. Sweeney essentially ruled that the other portions could not be played because defense attorneys would never get the chance to cross-examine Tickles.

Prosecutors have other evidence that they say links Tickles to Raras. Last month, Sweeney ruled that they could play for jurors a taped interrogation of Raras by Howard County police. On that tape, Raras admits to hiring Tickles but not to kill her daughter-in-law.

"In fact, I thought he's not going to kill her," Raras told detectives during her interrogation in August. "Because he told me he is just going to stone the house. As a revenge. For me."

Prosecutors will also be allowed to call a friend of Tickles' who rented the car for him to drive to Sara Raras' home and then allegedly helped him destroy evidence of the crime. The friend, Tanisha Hodge, was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.

She told authorities Tickles called her and asked her to rent a car for him so that he could be an "assassin," according to transcripts of Hodge's grand jury testimony.

After Hodge rented the car for Tickles Nov. 14, 1998, he returned to her home. He had blood all over his boots, she said.

"He started telling me about he went to a lady's house and he said he took the devil out," Hodge told grand jurors.

Hodge and Tickles then took his boots to a park where Tickles burned them, Hodge testified.

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