FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Blood spatter on a young woman's arms and clothing mark her as the killer of her 67-year-old grandmother, who was stabbed 20 times in the rural Maryland home they shared, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
But Hestina Harris' lawyer said the state has no evidence of a motive and no DNA linking Harris, 20, to the kitchen knife that was used to stab Lillie Morris in the home near Burkittsville they shared with four other family members, including Harris' then-4-month-old daughter, on Dec. 22, 2014.
"She didn't murder her grandmother," Assistant Public Defender Ashley Kemerer told the jury during opening statements. Harris told police she saw a masked man running from the house into the woods after the attack.
Kemerer also seemed to subtly lay a foundation for the insanity argument Harris' lawyers say they'll make if the jury convicts her of first-degree murder. In court filings, they have said they're prepared to call an expert to testify Harris had a psychotic breakdown, disputing a state expert's finding that she is mentally competent and criminally responsible.
She said Harris had "no logical reason to murder her grandmother" and "it just doesn't make any sense."
Assistant State's Attorney Erin Pearl said Harris is a liar whose inconsistent statements to investigators evolved to fit the mounting evidence against her. Harris initially denied having changed clothes that day but after investigators found her bloody T-shirt in a laundry pile, she said her arms and clothing became stained with blood as she embraced her dying grandmother, lying on the lawn outside their home.
Pearl said the evidence doesn't fit that story. She said an expert will testify the bloodstains were spatter, just like those on the home's walls and furniture.
"You will hear an evolving story, a lie that keeps growing," Pearl said. "You will see that the defendant, Hestina Harris, was the one who picked up that kitchen knife and stabbed Lillie Morris over and over again."
The trial is scheduled through March 18.