A Howard County Circuit Court jury was to resume deliberations today in the case of a 63-year-old woman charged in the slaying of her daughter-in-law in a murder-for-hire plot.
The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours yesterday after spending more than six hours listening to closing arguments in the case against Emilia Raras, who police and prosecutors say planned the brutal slaying of her daughter-in-law almost two years ago.
Raras, of Parkville, was charged in August with first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Authorities say Raras hired Ardale D. Tickles, 20, a co-worker at a nursing home, to kill her daughter-in-law, Sara J. Williamson Raras.
Tickles, who is charged with first-degree murder in the Raras case, is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison Dec. 20 for robbing and shooting a clerk at a McDonald's restaurant in Baltimore County. His trial on the Howard County charges is set for next month.
In her closing argument, prosecutor Mary Murphy described how Sara Raras was stabbed several times and her throat was slashed. Police found the victim's body in the family room of her home in the 6600 block of Meadowfield Court in Elkridge Nov. 15, 1998.
At the time, Sara Raras and her husband, Lorenzo, were embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their 16-month-old son.
Murphy told how Emilia Raras, in a taped interview with police, said she felt slighted, angry and hurt because her daughter-in-law was having an affair with another man, did not want to take her advice on breast-feeding and other matters.
Murphy pointed out that Emilia Raras, a Filipino, told police on the tape that in her culture, "showing disrespect for the mother is death."
Murphy said that when the detective interviewing her asked if that was enough to have someone killed, Raras replied, "Yes."
During his closing argument, defense attorney Clark F. Ahlers said detectives forced Raras into giving those statements by threatening to take her grandson away from her if she did not cooperate.
"Could there be a greater perceived threat?" Ahlers asked the jury. "Praise the Lord that we don't have a Police Department that beats people, but what they do instead is focus on something they know she loves."
Ahlers, who used pie charts to demonstrate to the jury that there is no evidence to prove his client's guilt, said detectives repeatedly gave Emilia Raras mixed messages about whether or not she could call a lawyer.
"What does it mean when I am told that I have the right to be silent, but at the same time, I am told that I have an obligation to talk," Ahlers said.
Ahlers attacked the credibility of almost every prosecution witness, including Tickles, who he said could not be trusted to tell the truth.
Howard police charged Raras and Tickles after a Baltimore County Detention Center inmate, in whom Tickles had confided, told police that Tickles had talked about killing a woman in Howard County.
"[Tickles] has eight personalities and a mental disorder that causes his memory to be corrupt he can't be creditable," Ahlers said.
Murphy said that detectives gave Emilia Raras several opportunities to stop talking but she did not.
Ahlers contended that prosecutors never explained exactly how much Raras paid Tickles for the job, or exactly when he was paid.
But prosecutors asked jurors to use their common sense.
"We never promised we could say precisely how much was paid and exactly when it was paid," said assistant state's attorney Matthew Campbell, "but she made notations in her checkbook and we ask you to put two and two together."