- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2006

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A West Virginia woman sentenced to life in prison for murdering a teenage romantic rival and her infant daughter lost an appeal yesterday to Maryland’s second-highest court.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the police search and seizure of a blood-spattered minivan that Sonya Daniels was found driving in Martinsburg, W.Va., hours after Deanne Prichard, 16, and 5-week-old Makayla Frost were shot Oct. 19, 2002, outside Deanne’s Walkersville home.

Lawyers from the Maryland Public Defender’s Office had argued that Martinsburg police stopped the green Chevrolet minivan, owned by Daniels’ father, without probable cause. Attorneys Stacy McCormack and Michael Braudes further said a bloodstained hubcap police removed from the van should have been excluded from evidence because the search was conducted in Martinsburg by Frederick County, Md., sheriff’s deputies, who lacked authority to execute a West Virginia warrant.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals upheld lower-court rulings on both counts.

Regarding the seizure, Judge Arrie W. Davis wrote for the panel: “Armed with the information that the green minivan was believed to be part of the crime scene along with its tag number, the Martinsburg police had more than ample information to support a finding of probable cause to stop and secure the vehicle.”

During the search of the vehicle, the Maryland deputies gathered evidence under the control of Martinsburg police Officer Brian Rausch, “who was present at the scene, during the entire time that the evidence was being collected,” Judge Davis wrote.

“It was, in fact, Officer Rausch who was responsible for documenting the items recovered and logging them in on the return to be filed with the court,” Judge Davis wrote. Therefore, “we perceive no error requiring invalidation of the search warrant and suppression of the evidence.”

Prosecutors said Daniels, 30, of Martinsburg, drove to Deanne’s home and shot both victims with a .44-caliber Magnum revolver after learning that Makayla was fathered by Daniels’ former boyfriend.

A Frederick County judge convicted Daniels of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced her to two concurrent life terms without parole.

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