Howard County authorities appear to be gathering more evidence in the killing of an Elkridge woman who was the victim of a hit-man hired by her mother-in-law.
Two convictions have been won in the homicide, but authorities appear to be focusing on another suspect, said sources familiar with the case.
It is unclear what evidence authorities have gathered. Officials have executed search warrants, the sources said, and subpoenaed the victim's father-in-law and a brother-in-law to appear before a grand jury.
Sgt. John Superson, Howard County Police spokesman, said the case is being "actively investigated," but he declined to elaborate.
County prosecutors did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The victim's mother-in-law, Emilia D. Raras, 64, of Baltimore County was convicted of first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder in February. She was sentenced two months later to life in prison without parole. She is appealing.
The hit-man, Ardale D. Tickles, 20, of Baltimore pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in March and is scheduled to be sentenced next month. He faces life in prison without parole.
Raras' attorney, Clarke F. Ahlers, said he is perplexed by the recent action.
"It appears that the state is now proceeding on a theory of the case different than presented to the jury against Emilia Raras," he said. "That's is precisely what I predicted to the jury."
Police and prosecutors have not hidden their belief that someone else might be involved in the death of Sara Raras in 1998.
On the witness stand during the trial of Emilia Raras, one detective said police had another unnamed suspect.
Immediately after Sara Raras' death was discovered, police quickly focused attention on her estranged husband, Lorenzo D. Raras.
The two were engaged in a bitter divorce and custody battle over their young son.
It is unclear why authorities have subpoenaed Lorenzo's father, Antonio, or his brother, Michael, to appear before the grand jury.
Neither Antonio nor Michael Raras could be reached for comment.
Lorenzo Raras has told reporters in the past not to call him.
Police have also executed several search warrants in the case, but it is not known what authorities were seeking. After the killing, the police investigation stalled for months, until a Baltimore County jail informant tipped investigators that a cellmate was boasting about a killing in Howard County.
That cellmate was Tickles.
Investigators soon learned that Emilia Raras had paid Tickles $2,000 to $3,000 to kill Sara Raras.
In statements to police after her arrest in August 1999, Emilia Raras said she felt slighted by her daughter-in-law and acknowledged hiring Tickles.
But she said she never intended her daughter-in-law to die. She wanted Tickles only to throw rocks at Sara Raras' house, she said.
During the interrogation, Emilia Raras became angry several times, and jurors seemed to rely on her own words to convict her.
At one point, the perceived insults were so bad, Raras said, that it would be worth killing someone who "spit" in her face.
"Showing disrespect for a mother is death," Raras told detectives.
Prosecutors said Emilia Raras was so upset at the prospect of losing her grandson in the custody fight that she hired Tickles to kill her daughter-in-law.
Sara Raras was at home Nov. 14, 1998, when Tickles smashed through a window and attacked her with a knife. She died during the stabbing.
Tickles fled and was arrested later in an unrelated attempted-murder case.