Raras seeking reduced sentence

Woman convicted in murder-for-hire

Elkridge

March 08, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A teary Emilia D. Raras pleaded yesterday for a reduction in the life-without-parole sentence she received for hiring a hit man in November 1998 to kill her Elkridge daughter-in-law - a woman she claimed to "love like a daughter."

The 66-year-old grandmother and her lawyers asked a Howard County Circuit Court panel of three judges to suspend all but 10 years of the sentence.

The review panel likely will file its decision within 30 days.

If the judges reduce her sentence and she is paroled after serving the mandatory minimum of five years, Raras could be free before her 70th birthday. She has served two years and seven months.

"Please let me go home," Raras said during the sentence review. "Let me die in the arms of my children, grandchildren and relatives."

None of Emilia Raras' relatives was in the courtroom yesterday.

In June, the Court of Special Appeals rejected the argument that Raras' statement to police should have been suppressed and that Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney should have better explained to her jury what constitutes first-degree murder.

"I believe the judge, jury and appellate courts got it wrong in this case," Raras' lawyer, Clarke F. Ahlers, told Judges Lenore R. Gelfman, Diane O. Leasure and Raymond J. Kane Jr.

In Maryland, anyone who receives a sentence of more than two years has the right to file a sentence review. Judges may increase or decrease the terms, or leave them unchanged.

During the proceeding, Ahlers presented his objections to Raras' sentence, she spoke to the court and prosecutors reviewed the facts of the case.

Raras was convicted in February 2000 of first-degree murder for hiring a hit man to kill Sara J. Williamson Raras in her Elkridge home. Sweeney sentenced the Baltimore County woman to life without the possibility of parole.

Sweeney sentenced the convicted hit man, Ardale D. Tickles, 22, to life with the possibility of parole, which he will serve after completing a 25-year sentence for unrelated attempted murder charges in Baltimore County.

Ahlers argued that Tickles' lesser sentence is unfair to Raras.

"The jury never got a full picture of the case," Ahlers said, noting that the jury did not hear testimony about Tickles' disturbed mental state. Tickles dressed as a ninja, jumped through a window and stole Disney videotapes during the killing, Ahlers said.

Raras and Ahlers insisted that the woman never wanted Tickles to kill her 35-year-old daughter-in-law - just throw stones at the house.

Sara Raras and her husband, Lorenzo, were embroiled in a contentious divorce that was scheduled for a hearing about a week after Sara Raras was killed, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Mary V. Murphy told the panel.

Emilia Raras feared that Sara Raras would get sole custody of her son, Lorenzo Williamson Raras, then 1. His father has custody of the boy.

Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell said Emilia Raras' "venom of disrespect" for Sara Raras poisoned Tickles' mind and that her premeditation warranted the "harsh sentence" Sweeney rendered.

Raras addressed the judges for 30 minutes. "I am not a barbarian," Raras told the judges four times.

"We don't call her a barbarian," Campbell countered during his statement to the review panel. "But we do call her acts barbaric."

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