A Nov. 9 article about the murder case against Sonya Marie Daniels in Montgomery County Circuit Court reported an incorrect sentencing date. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18, not Dec. 19. (Published 11/15/04)
A woman accused of killing an infant and the infant's mother in a jealous rage in Frederick County more than two years ago was found guilty by a state judge yesterday after her brother led investigators to the murder weapon, authorities said.
In an unusual legal maneuver midway through her murder trial, Sonya Marie Daniels agreed yesterday not to challenge the facts surrounding the weapon's discovery, thereby allowing a Frederick County judge to find her guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, according to Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.
Daniels, 27, of Martinsburg, W.Va., had been on trial a second time in the killings of Deanne Prichard, 16, and her 5-week-old daughter, Makayla Ann Frost, in Walkersville on Oct. 19, 2002. Prosecutors said Daniels shot the mother in the neck and the infant in the face because she was jealous that Prichard had begun a relationship with Daniels's ex-boyfriend.
Yesterday's conviction capped a legal drama that included a previous attempt to seek the death penalty for her and a trial that ended with a hung jury almost a year ago. Both trials had been moved to Montgomery County because of extensive publicity in Frederick. During the second trial, which began with opening statements Oct. 25, Frederick prosecutors dropped their attempt to apply the death penalty and sought life without parole.
Prichard's family is "very, very pleased that it came out this way," Rolle said.
Authorities said Daniels did not admit guilt yesterday before Frederick County Circuit Court Judge John H. Tisdale, who was presiding over the trial in Montgomery. By stipulating to the facts surrounding the weapon's discovery, however, she undercut her alibi defense, prosecutors said. The plea agreement allows her to pursue an appeal -- which would have been legally barred if she had entered a conventional guilty plea.
The turning point came when Joe Daniels Jr. told investigators that he had given his sister a gun for personal protection before the slayings after she told him someone had run her off the road in her car, said Deputy State's Attorney J. Charles Smith III. Joe Daniels also admitted that his sister had come to him for help shortly after the killings, Smith said.
Joe Daniels told investigators that he burned his sister's bloody clothes and hid the weapon, eventually burying it under a sidewalk at a construction site. Last week, investigators dug up the sidewalk in Martinsburg and recovered the weapon, a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum revolver, Smith said.
Joe Daniels cooperated with investigators after obtaining a promise that he would not be prosecuted for acting as an accessory to murder after the fact or other charges, Smith said.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 19, Rolle said. Daniels could face life without parole.