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Woman acquitted of trying to have her husband killed

Woman acquitted of trying to have her husband killed
By Dawn Keller, Times Staff Writer 
Friday, May 16, 2003 

A circuit court judge acquitted a Finksburg woman accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill her husband, saying Thursday that some of the evidence in the case was among the worst he had seen in more than 20 years. 

The evidence against 47-year-old Constance Lee Etzler consisted of taped conversations between Etzler and her alleged co-conspirator Richard Richardson, the location of gas cans near a cabin where her former husband stayed on vacation and Richardson’s testimony. 

Judge Luke K. Burns described one of the tapes as unreliable because parts of it were inaudible and said he was confused by the testimony about the gas cans. 

Burns called Richardson a liar. 

“I think he lied the whole time he was on the witness stand,” Burns said. 

Etzler was accused of conspiring with Richardson in April 2001 to murder her former husband, according to court records. Richardson pleaded guilty in January to his involvement in the crime, court records indicate. His sentencing was postponed until after Etzler’s trial. 

During the four-day trial, Richardson testified that Etzler gave him money to kill her former husband, assistant state’s attorney Natasha Byus said during closing arguments. 

Etzler talked to Richardson several times about killing her former husband, Byus said. Byus said Richardson’s testimony alone couldn’t convict Etzler. But, his testimony, along with the other evidence, showed Etzler’s guilt, she said. 

She said Richardson didn’t have reason to lie – that he had to testify truthfully as part of his plea agreement. Etzler had a motive to lie, Byus said. 

Etzler’s attorney Leonard Shapiro said she didn’t stand to benefit from her former husband’s death. 

“It’s ludicrous to think she would have any reason to have him knocked off,” Shapiro said. 

And, he said, Richardson was the worst possible witness a prosecutor could have. “He admits he lies to help himself out,” Shapiro said. 

Byus could not be reached for comment after the trial. State’s Attorney Jerry Barnes had no comment about the decision. 

Etzler, on the other hand, hugged Shapiro after Burns announced his decision. Shapiro said his client is overwhelmed and glad that the trial is over. 

“It’s been a nightmare,” he said.