- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Jurors continued deliberations Thursday afternoon in the trial of a St. Mary’s man from the beating death of a nurse last summer on a jogging trail in Laurel Grove, in a case where his lawyer disputed that the facts support a charge of first-degree murder.
John Morris Quade Jr., now 32, of Lexington Park was accused by a prosecutor of bludgeoning Moneta Jo Strickland with a rock on the afternoon of Aug. 8 at the Three Notch Trail.
“He crashed it on her forehead, ... drug her in the woods and then buried her,” St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) said at the onset of the proceeding. Following up on a missing persons report, police found the nurse’s body the next day, the prosecutor said, “completely buried with her hands protruding out of the leaves.”
Three days after that, the prosecutor said, a man who had been walking on the trail told police he had seen Strickland there, along with another man who was walking behind her and alternately disappeared and reappeared along the path. The witness’ account, and surveillance video from a store across Route 235 from the trail, prompted a detective to contact Quade, a convicted sex offender on a statewide registry enforced by the investigator.
Jurors heard a recording this week of sheriff’s Cpl. William Raddatz’s extensive conversation with Quade, who initially denied knowing about the woman’s death or being in the area, but ultimately acknowledged getting into an argument with her before he blacked out, by his account, and woke up next to her body and a bloody rock. Quade told the detective that he buried the body with leaves, threw the rock deep into the woods and took the woman’s cellphone home and destroyed it in a fire.
“He took that cellphone to cut her off from the outside world” if she survived, the prosecutor said. “When he couldn’t have his way with her, he killed her. He killed her to keep her from telling the police.”
Fritz said that Quade left the scene, but later returned to get a pack of cigarettes that he had dropped near Strickland’s body.
Gerald J. Riviello, Quade’s lawyer, countered that the evidence did not support a charge of first-degree murder, either on a theory of premeditation or that Strickland was killed during the commission of another crime.
“There’s really [just those] two theories that you can consider,” Riviello said. “The state is not going to be able to prove that this was a first-degree murder.”
Riviello disputed the prosecutor’s assertion that Quade robbed Strickland. Quade was not wearing a mask or gloves, the defense lawyer said, and “he’s not hiding himself.”
If a robbery was part of the incident, the lawyer questioned why Strickland’s car key and engagement ring would have been left behind with her body, while only her traceable cellphone was taken after her death.
The county’s state’s attorney said after Quade was indicted that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole would be sought if the suspect is convicted of first-degree murder.