Attorneys for a Baltimore County woman on trial on charges that she hired a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law in 1998 told a Howard County Circuit Court jury yesterday the alleged hit man is a "sociopath" who decided on his own to kill the woman.

Emilia Raras, 63, of Parkville, is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. She allegedly paid Ardale Tickles, of Baltimore, $3,000 to kill her daughter-in-law, Sara J. Williamson Raras, 35, in November 1998.

Authorities say Emilia Raras planned and paid for Sara Raras's killing because she felt that her daughter-in-law had not treated her with respect and was trying to keep her from seeing her grandson.

In interviews with detectives, Emilia Raras said that she told Tickles she despised her daughter-in-law and that she paid him to take action against Sara Raras. But Emilia Raras has maintained that her instructions were only to throw stones at Sara Raras's house.

Tickles, already serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted of trying to kill his former boss at a Baltimore McDonald's, is scheduled to go on trial March 13 on a first-degree murder charge.

In opening statements, Raras defense attorney Clarke F. Ahlers said a combination of Tickles's sociopathic tendencies and his professed hatred for whites led him to go much further than his client's request.

"Ardale Tickles killed Sara Raras because of personal demons," Ahlers said, adding that Tickles's fascination with Ninja culture is evidence that "he glorifies horrific brutality."

Assistant State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell ridiculed Emilia Raras's contention that she asked Tickles only to stone the house.

"So what she was saying is that she paid Ardale Tickles all this money just to throw rocks at Sara's home," he told jurors.

Both sides agree that Tickles was the killer. The prosecution outlined in graphic detail how Sara Raras's neck, belly and wrists were slashed and how she begged Tickles to let her die.

The divergence was over whether there was an agreement--a "meeting of the minds"--between Emilia Raras and Tickles that he would kill Sara Raras in exchange for Emilia Raras's money. The only overt evidence of such an agreement--a tape recording of Tickles saying an "Oriental woman" asked him to carry out a "hit"--was thrown out by Judge Dennis M. Sweeney this month in a pretrial hearing.

Other tapes are the main evidence in the case, prosecutors said yesterday. They include a tape of Raras detailing to detectives her feud with her daughter-in-law; a tape of Tickles admitting the crime during a secretly recorded jailhouse conversation; and an answering machine tape of Sara Raras crying out to a friend during the killing.

Ahlers, the Raras defense attorney, told the jury that Tickles's recent conviction for attempted murder in the attack on his former boss was evidence of his sociopathic tendencies. In that case, Tickles's defense attorneys argued that his troubled upbringing prompted him to commit the crime. A judge disagreed and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, but ordered that Tickles begin serving his term at the Patuxent Institute, a facility for emotionally troubled convicts.

Defense attorneys argued late yesterday that the confidential psychiatric reports from that case should be introduced in the Raras case. The judge will rule on that today.

Attorneys for Emilia Raras also told jurors that the fact that Tickles was calm and rational during a confrontation with Baltimore police hours after Sara Raras was killed is further evidence of his remorseless mind-set. Police found him after he allegedly destroyed bloodied boots worn during the slaying. They searched his car and found a bloody knife but discarded it after becoming convinced it was rust rather than blood, based partly on Tickles's demeanor, Ahlers said.

CAPTION: Sara Raras's mother-in-law is accused of paying to have her killed.