Murder trial of woman set for tomorrow

Authorities allege she paid co-worker to kill her daughter-in-law

Trial may exceed a week

Raras' statement to police, tape of inmate among evidence

January 23, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

More than a year after the brutal killing of an Elkridge woman in her home, the trial of her Baltimore County mother-in-law on murder charges is scheduled to begin tomorrow in what authorities have called a murder-for-hire scheme that arose, in part, from a sense of rejection.

Emilia D. Raras, 63, of Parkville is accused of paying a co-worker $3,000 to have her daughter-in-law killed -- a charge she denied during a tape-recorded police interrogation after her arrest in August.

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

Raras is charged with murder, solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Her trial in Howard County Circuit Court is expected to last more than a week. It will reveal her taped statements and other dramatic evidence, including a jail house recording of the man accused of the killing describing a homicide.

During her statements to police, Raras acknowledged she knew the suspect, Ardale D. Tickles, 20. But she told police she paid him only to throw stones at the house and maybe injure her daughter-in-law, Sara J. Williamson Raras, 35.

Emilia Raras was upset, she said, because Sara Raras had declined her help during her pregnancy. Authorities also have alleged that Raras was upset that her daughter-in-law and son were involved in a bitter divorce and custody fight over their son, then a year old. The boy is in the custody of his father, Lorenzo Raras.

The trial of Tickles, also facing murder charges, is scheduled to begin next month.

Jurors will hear how police, stymied for months in their investigation, got their first break in the case from a jail house informant nearly eight months after the death of Sara Raras on Nov. 14, 1998.

On June 1, an inmate at the Baltimore County jail called a Baltimore County detective and told him that a cellmate had described a homicide. Hours later, the detective put a body-wire microphone on the informant. Amid the din of background noise and music in the jail, Tickles told the informant how he stabbed a woman to death in her Howard County home.

During that conversation, Tickles also told the informant that an "Oriental" and "Asiatic black sister" that he worked with had hired him for a "hit" on the woman. He said the victim had spit on his co-worker. Emilia Raras, who is from the Philippines, and Tickles worked at the same nursing home, authorities said.

Tickles never named the victim or the woman who hired him. During motions hearings this month, Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ruled that prosecutors could not play that portion of the tape to jurors because Raras' defense attorney would not be able to cross-examine Tickles, who is expected to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Raras' defense attorney, Clarke F. Ahlers, also might not be able to cross-examine the informant, Edison M. George, who is missing and is believed to have fled Maryland. George is wanted on robbery charges in North Carolina.

It is not clear what other evidence prosecutors might have to link Raras to Tickles. But Ahlers could argue that his client paid Tickles to hurt her daughter-in-law, not kill her. He could also argue that Raras told Tickles about her frustrations with Sara Raras and that Tickles became unhinged and stabbed her to death.

Tickles was convicted last year on unrelated attempted murder charges in Baltimore County -- the reason he was being held at the Baltimore County jail. During that trial, Tickles walked toward a prosecutor. Several sheriff's deputies then fought and wrestled Tickles to the ground. It took 10 minutes to get him into handcuffs.

Ahlers could not be reached for comment Friday, and prosecutors declined to discuss the case.

But prosecutors have another key witness: a friend of Tickles' who says she rented the car he is accused of driving to Sara Raras' home on Meadowfield Court. That woman, Tanisha Hodge, also said that she helped Tickles destroy evidence. During her grand jury testimony, authorities learned how close they came to arresting Tickles the night of the killing.

Hodge told police and grand jurors that Tickles had called her and said someone had hired him to be an "assassin." She didn't believe him but rented a car for him Nov. 14.

A few hours after she gave Tickles the car, she testified, he knocked on her door in Baltimore.

"I answered the door, and he walked in and had blood on his shoes," Hodge testified. "He started telling me about [how] he went to a lady's house, and he said he took the `devil' out."

The pair went to a nearby park, where they burned the bloody boots, Hodge said.

Walking back to the car, they were stopped by Baltimore police officers. They asked questions, Hodge said, and searched the car, finding a knife under the driver's seat. One officer inspected the knife, Hodge said, and thought it might have blood on it.

The officers took the knife, Hodge said, and let the pair drive away. It is not clear whether Howard County authorities recovered the knife.

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