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Judge refuses to move Rice trial
Judge rules against defense on key motions in case prosecutors link to 29 Stalker.

 Darrell David Rice, left, is escorted by Deputy Art Staples as he arrives for a hearing on pretrial motions in Circuit Court at the Prince William County Court House in Manassas Tuesday. Rice has been charged with the abduction of a woman along U.S. 29 in Virginia. Rice, 37, a former computer technician from Howard County, Md., is serving time for the July 1997 attack on a female bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park. (AP Photo/The Potomac News, Donnie Biggs)
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Date published: 1/11/2005

The Free Lance-Star

A Prince William County judge today refused to move the trial of Darrell Rice on charges that he attacked a woman authorities believe was one of the victims of the 29 Stalker.

Rice is charged with abduction, robbery and malicious wounding charges in a Feb. 24, 1996, attack on Carmelita Shomo.

Defense attorneys asked that the trial be moved to Southwest Virginia because of publicity over the 29 Stalker cases and the 1996 slayings of two hikers in the Shenandoah National Park, for which Rice was once charged.

Circuit Judge William D. Hamblen denied that request this morning, but said the defense could raise it again if circumstances warranted.

Hamblen also denied a defense request to throw out the victim's identification of Rice in a photo lineup. Attorneys for Rice argued that a detective had unduly influenced the woman by mentioning the hiker slayings. Hamblen said the detective's actions were not unduly suggestive.

A federal grand jury indicted Rice in 2002 in the hiker deaths, but the capital murder charges were dropped after DNA found at the scene did not match Rice's.

Authorities believe the attack on Shomo is linked to the 29 Stalker cases in 1996. Those cases involved a man who tried to stop at least two dozen women--most of them along U.S. 29 between Culpeper and Charlottesville--under the guise that there was a problem with their cars.

One woman--Alicia Showalter Reynolds, 25, of Baltimore--was apparently abducted and killed while driving to Charlottesville to meet her mother to shop for dresses for her twin brother's wedding. Reynolds' body was found in May 1996 in a logging area off State Route 3 in Culpeper County, about 10 miles off U.S. 29.

Reynolds' was the only death attributed to the stalker. Shomo is the only other person police believe was injured by the man.

Shomo said she was driving along State Route 234 from Manassas Mall toward her home in eastern Prince William when a man in a dark pickup flashed his lights at her and beckoned her to pull over.

After she did, he claimed sparks were coming from beneath her car and offered her a ride. During the drive, he started screaming at her, pulled out a screwdriver and tried to sexually assault her, police have said. Shomo fought back and was pushed out of the moving truck, injuring her ankle.

Rice, 37, is currently serving an 11-year federal term for the attempted kidnapping of a woman who was biking in Shenandoah National Park in July 1997.

He was indicted last year in the Shomo case and is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 7. Defense attorneys said during a break today that they would ask for a continuance.

To reach PAMELA GOULD: 540/657-9101 pgould@freelancestar.com