Tape apparently linking Raras to killing ruled 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 said Tickles asked her to rent a car for him so that he could be an "assassin," according to Hodge's grand jury testimony.

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