- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

Frederick County prosecutors say they will retry of the case of a West Virginia woman accused of killing a 5-week-old girl and the baby’s mother after a judge declared a mistrial Wednesday.

“We’re retrying it, I can tell you that,” said Frederick County Deputy State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith III after the mistrial was declared. “A hung jury is sometimes, unfortunately, not uncommon in capital cases and, really, who’s to say what it’s attributable to. We just know that we have a strong case.”

Frederick Circuit Court Judge John H. Tisdale declared the mistrial in the trial of Sonya Marie Daniels after a Montgomery County jury that deliberated for 34 hours could not agree on a verdict.

Miss Daniels, 27, is charged with shooting and killing Deanne Marie Prichard, 16, and her 5-week-old daughter, Makayla Ann Frost, outside their home on Discovery Boulevard in Walkersville, Md., on Oct. 19, 2002. If convicted, Miss Daniels could have faced the death penalty.

Because of intense pretrial publicity, the trial was moved to Montgomery County. After nearly two weeks of testimony however, the jury of eight men and four women deliberated for four days before announcing Wednesday night that it could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott L. Rolle said he was disappointed about the mistrial but that he was certain that a second trial will be scheduled, and that his office will seek the death penalty again.

There are no women on Maryland’s death row.

Miss Daniels will continue to be held without bond in the Montgomery County jail.

During the trial, Mr. Smith tried to prove that Miss Daniels shot and killed Miss Prichard and Makayla out of anger and jealousy over Tracy L. Frost, 31, an imprisoned drug dealer who was Makayla’s father.

Miss Daniels and Frost had ended a live-in relationship about a year earlier. Miss Prichard was involved in a relationship with Frost when she was killed.

Blood found on a left hubcap of the minivan driven by Miss Daniels was among the physical evidence that was presented to the jury. DNA tests linked the blood to Miss Prichard. But the defense argued that police made mistakes when they gathered and analyzed the evidence.

A key witness in the case was Miss Prichard’s brother, Glen Lee Prichard Jr., who was 8 when he witnessed the shooting. He told jurors he saw a woman wearing a black wig, ski mask and leather gloves get out of a dark green minivan about 3 p.m. and approach Miss Prichard and her baby.

The masked woman ordered Miss Prichard into the van. When Miss Prichard refused, the masked woman shot her in the neck. After Miss Prichard and the baby fell to the ground, the masked woman shot the baby in the face, Glen Lee testified.

Glen Lee and his mother, Patricia Ann Collins, who also witnessed the shooting, did not identify Miss Daniels as the killer during the trial.

Defense attorney Katy C. O’Donnell argued that Miss Daniels could not be the killer because she had borrowed her father’s dark green minivan in West Virginia, almost 30 minutes before the shooting. Martinsburg is nearly 50 miles from Walkersville, which is northeast of Frederick.

Miss O’Donnell, who is a public defender, said police didn’t find any black wigs, masks, gloves, guns or gunpowder residue during their searches of the minivan.

Miss O’Donnell told jurors that her client was running errands and taking her nieces to a movie at the time of the killings. Miss O’Donnell argued that a drug-dealer who had worked with Frost had committed the slayings.

Mr. Smith argued that Miss Daniels accused Frost of fathering Makayla. A couple weeks before the killings, Miss Prichard and Miss Daniels ran into each other at the Washington County Detention Center where Frost is incarcerated. Both women went to the prison to visit Frost and got into a brief struggle.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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