Change Of Venue Requested In West OC Murder Case
SNOW HILL - Attorneys for accused West Ocean City murderer Gregory William Stokes last week entered a motion for a change of venue, which could move the high-profile trial to another part of the state.
Stokes is charged with the shooting death of Pamela Balk in her parents' West Ocean City home on January 11. His attorney, Neil Brafman last week entered a motion suggesting a change of venue, which could move the case from Worcester County to another jurisdiction in the state.
It is not unusual for the defense in a first-degree murder case to seek a change of venue, typically because of pre-trial publicity and the perceived inability to find a fair and impartial jury in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
State's Attorney for Worcester County Joel Todd said yesterday a Worcester County Circuit Court judge would make an initial ruling on the change of venue motion and, if granted, the administrative judge for the circuit would then seek an appropriate venue in the state to hold the trial.
Todd said he was not surprised at the change of venue request and was prepared to go wherever he has to in order to prosecute the case against Stokes.
'This is certainly not unusual in a murder case,' he said. 'We'll be ready to take the show on the road wherever we have to if the motion is ruled upon favorably.'
Todd prosecuted Erika and Benjamin Sifrit in two different venues in Maryland in 2003. The Sifrits were convicted in the slayings of a Virginia couple in Ocean City on Memorial Day in 2002, with Erika's trial held in Frederick County and Benjamin's trial held in Rockville in Montgomery County.
'We've been through this before and we'll be ready wherever they send this case,' he said.Stokes was identified as the suspect in the Balk murder after a bizarre sequence of events in both Worcester and Wicomico Counties on Jan. 11, culminating with the discovery of the victim's body in her parents' Mystic Harbour home in West Ocean City. After a two-day search, Stokes was arrested in Middle River in Baltimore County and charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Pamela Balk.