Baltimorean pleads guilty to killing Elkridge woman

Tickles `remorseful' for murder of Raras

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

In a surprise move and against his defense attorney's advice, a Baltimore man accused of killing an Elkridge woman in 1998 pleaded guilty yesterday to her murder in Howard County Circuit Court.

Ardale D. Tickles, 20, said he was sure he wanted to plead guilty to first-degree murder in the slaying of Sara J. Williamson Raras, a 35-year-old mother, in November 1998. The trial was scheduled to begin yesterday with jury selection.

"I'm entering a plea of guilty because I'm remorseful for what I did," Tickles said. "I'm suffering every night and day. I feel like this is the best thing for me. I'm pleading guilty for any negative deeds and sin. I'm entering a guilty plea because I did do it. I'm sorry."

Tickles had been talking about pleading guilty for a month, his attorney, Samuel Truette, told Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney. But Truette said he advised Tickles to go to trial because anything could happen.

"I don't think it's in your best interest to do it," Truette told Tickles, as he was questioning his client about understanding his rights. "You never know what's going to happen during a jury trial."

Several times, Truette asked Tickles whether he understood the consequences of his actions and whether he understood what it meant to give up his jury trial rights. Finally, he asked: "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

Tickles responded: "Yes."

Prosecutors spent much of the weekend preparing for a lengthy trial of Tickles on a first-degree murder charge. That trial was supposed to start yesterday.

Prosecutors said they were "mildly surprised" at the guilty plea but said they would have presented 26 witnesses to show that Tickles committed the crime.

"The case is a strong case," prosecutor I. Matthew Campbell said in an interview. "We were eager to present our case."

Prosecutors are asking Sweeney to sentence Tickles to life without parole, and the consequences of his guilty plea were evident during the hourlong hearing.

"You could spend the full, natural life, completely, totally, behind bars," Sweeney told Tickles. "The only way you would be going out of the Division of Correction is feet first."

Tickles said he understood that possibility. Truette declined to comment. During yesterday's hearing, Truette said he would argue for a lesser sentence than life without parole.

Tickles admitted that he was paid between $2,000 and $3,000 to kill Sara Raras by a co-worker, the victim's mother-in-law. Emilia D. Raras, 63, was convicted by a Howard County jury last month of murder and solicitation to commit murder charges for her role in the death of Sara Raras. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.

On Nov. 14, Tickles entered Sara Raras' home on Meadowfield Court and stabbed her to death using a hunting knife. The next summer, Tickles was awaiting trial on attempted murder charges in an unrelated Baltimore County case in the Baltimore County jail. A cellmate called police investigators and said that Tickles had described the killing of a woman.

Police put a wire on the cellmate June 1, and Tickles confessed to his role in killing a woman in Howard County.

The story that Tickles told about the death of the woman he killed and the murder of Sara Raras are quite similar. Raras suffered knife wounds all over her body and was found pushed against the far wall of her home. She was struck with such force that her body dented the wall.

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.

He continued with the attack, he told the informant, because he was concerned about how victims in movies were sometimes able to escape their would-be killers and call authorities.

On the tape, Tickles also provided the link to Raras.

"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 a native of the Philippines.

After the slaying, Tickles went home, where he found a friend who helped him burn his bloody boots in a nearby park. That friend later testified against Raras during her trial and before a Howard County grand jury under a grant of immunity.

Prosecutors revealed that DNA evidence was found on a machete that Tickles took from Sara Raras' home and left on her front lawn. Scientists would have testified that there was a 1 in 280,000 chance in Tickles' ethnic group that the drop of perspiration found on the knife blade did not belong to him.

Prosecutors also revealed yesterday that after the murder, Tickles befriended a 15-year-old girl. The girl told a Howard County grand jury that Tickles described the killing of a woman near Columbia.

Tickles is scheduled to be sentenced May 25. He is serving a 25-year prison term for attempted murder in the unrelated Baltimore County case.

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