EASTON -- The closest friend of a Laurel woman accused of killing her husband during a Valentine's weekend last year told a Talbot County jury yesterday that the woman confided plans for ending an unhappy marriage two weeks before his charred body was found in an Eastern Shore resort.
Special prosecutor Robert Dean, a former Montgomery County state's attorney, rested his case with the emotional testimony of Kimberly Hricko's former roommate from their college days at Pennsylvania State University.
"She told me she had a way to do it and not get caught," said Rachel McCoy, a sales representative for a Towson bank. "We were in her kitchen and she told me she could get a drug that would paralyze Stephen, stop his breathing. She said she could set the curtains on fire with a candle or a cigar and he would die of smoke inhalation.
"Kim said she could easily get the drug at work," McCoy said. "She told me it would not show up in his blood and that she could inject him in a muscle."
Investigators say this is precisely how Hricko, a surgical technician, killed Stephen Hricko, 35, hoping to collect a $400,000 payoff from two life insurance policies. She is charged with murder, arson and attempted arson.
Deputy state medical examiner David R. Fowler classified the death as a homicide and said that the 6-foot, 3-inch, 245-pound Stephen Hricko, a golf course supervisor in Prince George's County, died of "probable poisoning."
He was killed by an almost untraceable muscle relaxant, commonly used in operating rooms, such as the Holy Cross Hospital surgical unit in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, where Kimberly Hricko worked, Fowler said.
The drug, succinylcholine, quickly paralyzes the body's skeletal muscles, including those necessary for breathing, he said. An autopsy revealed that Stephen Hricko died before fire swept through a cottage at Harbortowne Golf Resort and Conference Center near St. Michaels.
"This man did not breathe any of the byproducts of a fire," Fowler said. "He was dead at the time of the fire. At the time I completed the autopsy, I could find no physical reason this man had died. I began to wonder if there was a chemical reason."
Fowler said the autopsy also showed no alcohol in the victim's blood, although his wife told police he was drunk and abusive on the night he died.
After attending a dinner-theater murder-mystery production at the Miles River resort, Hricko told police that she left after the couple began arguing, planning to drive to a friend's house in Easton.
She told police she drove for nearly two hours, got lost, and then returned to find their room filled with dense smoke and her husband dead.
When questioned by police after the fire, Hricko said her husband frequently smoked cigars when he had been drinking. But co-workers, friends and family said they had never seen Stephen Hricko smoke.
Jennifer Hricko, the dead man's sister, testified yesterday that she had never seen her younger brother with "a pipe, a cigarette or a cigar in his mouth."
Yesterday, a liquor store clerk who works in Laurel said she remembered Kimberly Hricko, 33, purchasing a package of inexpensive cigars in February.
Defense attorneys William Brennan Jr. and Harry Trainor Jr. are scheduled to begin presenting witnesses today. Final arguments could be heard tomorrow.
Pub Date: 1/15/99