A key witness scheduled to testify this week at a pretrial hearing in connection with the Aug. 2 robbery and slaying of a well-known Ellicott City restaurateur has told police and a state prosecutor she wants to recant previous statements, according to Howard County authorities.
But assistant state's attorney Richard P. O'Connor said he does not plan to drop charges against the restaurant owner's son and another man accused in the slaying, even if the witness, Lisa Williams, retracts statements she had given to police.
"I am not considering dropping the charges," O'Connor said yesterday. "I can't predict that. I don't know what Ms. Williams, the judge or I am going to do."
Dimitrios G. (Jimmy) Prassos, 23, and William C. Ray Jr., 30, of Towson were charged with robbery, murder and conspiracy to commit robbery in the slaying of Prassos' father, George Prassos, 59, owner of the Pirate's Cove restaurant on Rte. 40 southwest of Baltimore.
O'Connor said that if Williams recants earlier statements at Wednesday's hearing, it would harm the prosecution's cases, particularly against Prassos. A trial has been scheduled to start Jan. 20.
According to police and defense lawyers, Williams told detectives she overheard a conversation between Prassos and Ray about a large sum of money. She later sought to retract the statement, authorities said.
Daniel H. Scherr, Williams' lawyer, declined to comment yesterday.
Although Williams told authorities she wants to withdraw statements, O'Connor said, she has not formally retracted them. "As far as I'm concerned, she hasn't recanted anything," O'Connor said. "She came to my house and she indicated she wished to recant." But, he added, she did not provide a statement and later sought legal advice.
At pretrial hearings last month, O'Connor said, a police detective testified that Williams had withdrawn her previous statements about the defendants and the murder.
Howard County Public Defender Carol Robertson, who represents Ray, contended that police should reopen the investigation if Williams recants her statements in court.
Police initially said that at least three people might have participated in the robbery, but no other arrest has been made. Police said the gunman was seen by bystanders jumping into a small- to medium-size car with two other occupants.
Robertson said police recently received a report from the FBI crime lab indicating that hairs found in a baseball cap believed to have been worn by the gunman do not match those of Ray.
Prassos and Ray are being held in the Howard County jail. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against Ray.
At Wednesday's hearing, a Circuit Court judge is expected to consider a motion filed by Prassos' attorney, Joseph Fleischmann II, to suppress from evidence a photo identification of Prassos. According to court documents, Williams provided the photo identification for police. Authorities said she has told them she wants to retract this statement.