Witness describes plot to kill woman

Under immunity, Hodge testifies in Raras case

January 28, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A key witness in the case against a Baltimore County woman accused of hiring a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law testified yesterday that a friend told her he had been paid to carry out the plot.

Tanisha Hodge, 26, testified under a grant of immunity from Howard County prosecutors in the trial of Emilia D. Raras, 63. She is expected to testify in the trial of the friend, Ardale D. Tickles, 20.

Raras is accused of hiring Tickles for $3,000 to kill her daughter-in-law, Sara J. Williamson Raras of Elkridge. She is charged with murder, solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Her trial in Howard County Circuit Court is expected to extend into next week.

Hodge testified that Tickles called her a few nights before Sara Raras was slain and told her that he was going to be "an assassin." He needed Hodge to rent him a car for the job, she said.

Hodge said that she did not believe him, but rented the car anyway. On Nov. 14, wearing black military fatigues, Tickles left Hodge's home in the rental car, she testified, and returned later with blood on his shoes.

She said that Tickles was acting in a "hyper state" and told her that he had killed someone. "He said he `killed the devil slit her neck or slashed her throat,'" Hodge testified.

That night, the pair went to a nearby park, where Tickles burned his bloody shoes, Hodge said. She said they also threw out a bag of items that Tickles said he stole from the woman's house.

Hodge testified that at the park, she and Tickles were confronted by police officers who found a knife under the driver's seat of the rental car.

The officers discussed whether there was blood on the knife, Hodge testified, and then confiscated it.

Hodge said she and Tickles then drove to Washington, where she had rented the car, and exchanged it for another.

Hodge said she was worried about being connected to a crime and police finding the burned shoes. She also said she stopped Tickles from telling her any more about his actions.

"I'm caught up in a whole whirlwind of stuff I didn't mean to get caught up in," Hodge said.

Raras' defense attorney, Clarke F. Ahlers, attacked Hodge's credibility, and she admitted that she had planned to lie about her role in the crime.

Under cross-examination, Hodge stuck to her story, but Ahlers asked her repeated questions about whether she concealed evidence or lied to investigators.

He asked her repeatedly to explain why she didn't turn Tickles in to police. "You were in the park, burning physical evidence in the park," Ahlers said.

"Given a choice between driving into the night with a killer, or finding safe harbor with the police," why did Hodge go to Washington with Tickles? Ahlers asked.

She said she was afraid and worried about being caught up in a possible investigation.

Hodge also testified yesterday that she had known Tickles only a few weeks before he asked her to rent the car for him.

She tutored him in reading for his high school equivalency exam.

She testified that Tickles had told her that he hated white people and called them devils.

Also, yesterday, the police officer who stopped Hodge and Tickles in the park testified that he took a knife from the rented car and threw it away.

On cross-examination, he admitted that he had told a grand jury investigating the slaying that he did not remember where he or others had put the knife.

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