Krauser, C.J., Berger, Shaw Geter, JJ.
Darling, appellant, was convicted by a jury sitting in the
Circuit Court for Dorchester County of first-degree
premeditated murder; conspiracy to commit first-degree
murder; second-degree murder; first-degree assault;
conspiracy to commit first-degree assault; second-degree
assault; wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun; use of
a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence;
kidnapping; and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
 Appellant presents the following five
questions on appeal, which we have slightly rephrased:
I. Did the suppression court err when it denied
appellant's motion to suppress evidence seized from two
II. Did the trial court err when it admitted into evidence a
letter purportedly written by appellant while he was an
inmate at the detention center because it was not properly
III. Did the trial court err when it admitted into evidence a
cell phone service receipt because it was not properly
authenticated and constituted inadmissible hearsay?
IV. Did the trial court err when it admitted "other
V. Did the trial court err in denying appellant's motion
for judgment of acquittal? For the reasons that follow, we
State's theory of prosecution was that appellant and an
accomplice murdered Radames Guzman either in revenge for
providing information about appellant to the police or to
prevent Guzman from testifying against appellant in a
subsequent trial. The State's evidence was circumstantial
and came primarily, from evidence seized from two vehicles;
the decomposed body of Guzman; and the testimony of Jessie Jo
Stewart, a drug addict who bought drugs from appellant. The
defense's theory was that Stewart, killed Guzman to curry
favor with appellant. The defense presented no testimonial
summer of 2011, Guzman, a confidential informant for the
Delaware State police, made several controlled drug buys from
appellant. Based on those buys, a search warrant was issued
and executed for appellant's home in Dover, Delaware.
Appellant was arrested, released on bond, but then
"disappeared" and failed to appear for trial.
three years later, on the night of August 2, 2014, Guzman was
last seen by his family leaving his house in Delaware. About
three weeks later, on August 24th, his partially
decomposed and buried body was found in a wooded area near
Linkwood and Red Mill Roads in Dorchester County.
Guzman's wrists were bound behind his back with duct
tape, and he had three gunshot wounds to the back of his
head. He was identified by his fingerprints. A subsequent
medical examination revealed that the cause of death was
multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was homicide.
investigation into Guzman's Facebook account and cell
phone usage revealed that he was last in contact with a woman
named Jessie Jo Stewart. The police interviewed her on
September 2, but she told the police that she did not know
Guzman or what had happened to him.
days after that interview, police set up a covert
surveillance at appellant's home, located at 309 Prior
Avenue in Salisbury. A van was parked in the driveway and a
Lexus on the street; both vehicles were associated with
appellant. Police officers saw appellant leaving his home in
the van. They followed him and eventually stopped the
vehicle. He was taken into custody, and the van was towed to
a Maryland State Police Barrack. Pursuant to a search
warrant, two black ski masks and a cell phone service receipt
were seized from the vehicle.
appellant's arrest, a police canine unit made a positive
alert for drugs on the Lexus. The Lexus was also towed to a
Maryland State Police Barrack where it was searched pursuant
to a search warrant. The executing officer observed that the
car and trunk were "very clean" and noted that as
soon as the door of the car and trunk were opened he was
"overwhelmed" by the "strong odor of cleaning
material[.]" He found what appeared to be several spots
of dried blood in the trunk - on the molding, interior lid,
trunk mat, and side wall. Swabs of the suspected blood were
collected, pursuant to an additional search warrant obtained
by the officers. DNA analysis on the swabs showed that the
blood was from either Guzman or a brother based on DNA swabs
taken from Guzman's mother and father. DNA found on one of the ski masks matched
entered into a plea agreement with the State in which she
agreed to plead guilty to a charge of kidnapping and testify
truthfully at appellant's trial, and in exchange the
State would recommend a sentence of eight years. Stewart
testified that she was a longtime drug addict and had known
appellant, who supplied her with drugs, for about a year
prior to the murder. She paid for the drugs with money, if
she had it, or with sex.
testified that appellant asked her to look up Radames Guzman,
who she did not know, on the internet and arrange to meet
him. She found Guzman on Facebook, and they agreed to meet on
the evening of August 2; she told appellant about the
arrangement. Messages from Guzman's and Stewart's
Facebook accounts corroborated her account and were admitted
August 2, appellant picked up Stewart and drove her to the
Royal Farms store in Easton to obtain a car he had arranged
for her to use to pick up Guzman. Once at the store, they met
three people in a gold Grand Marquis. Video footage from the
store's surveillance cameras was introduced into
evidence. Stewart entered the Grand Marquis and drove the
three occupants to a nearby house where they got out. She
then drove to Delaware to meet Guzman. During the trip, she
was in cell phone contact with appellant.
picking up Guzman, she drove to a Royal Farms store in
Felton, Delaware and texted appellant while she was in the
bathroom. Photographs from the store's video surveillance
corroborated Stewart's and Guzman's presence at the
store with a Grand Marquis around 11:30 p.m. They then left
the store and drove to the Cambridge area of Maryland, during
which she was in cell phone contact with appellant. At some
point, a car, which she later learned was appellant's
Lexus, pulled up behind her on a deserted, back road and
flashed its headlights. She stopped the car she was driving
and got out. As she did so, she was shoved to the ground, but
saw two men wearing ski masks and all black clothing. One of
the men held a gun in his hands. Both of the men pulled
Guzman, who was screaming, out of the car. One man hit Guzman
in the face with the gun, and both men hit Guzman all over
with their fists. The men duct taped Guzman's hands and
ankles and put him in the back seat of appellant's Lexus.
The men then pulled up their masks and she recognized
appellant and another man, whom she had seen before but did
not know his name.
followed the Lexus to another deserted, back road where the
men placed Guzman in the trunk of the Lexus. They then drove
to a migrant camp where appellant sold drugs for several
hours. Stewart followed appellant back to Easton where they
dropped off the Grand Marquis at the house where she had
earlier left the three occupants. She then got into the Lexus
with appellant and the other man. Appellant drove to the
Royal Farms store in Easton. Video footage from the
store's surveillance cameras shows Stewart and appellant
at the store around 3:00 a.m. The video footage also shows
appellant pumping gas and then walking to the rear of his car
where he leans over as if to listen to noise from inside of
then drove Stewart to her home in Cambridge, during which
time she heard "kicking in the trunk." Before she
got out of the car, appellant asked for her cell phone, which
she gave to him. Cell phone records from the number on the
cell phone receipt found in the van in which appellant was
arrested show that between 4:07 a.m. and 4:50 a.m., that cell
phone was in the area where Guzman's body was later
found. The next day Stewart went to Walmart and bought a new
phone with money appellant had given her. Photographs from
the Walmart surveillance video support Stewart's
testimony and show her walking out of Walmart with the phone
on August 3 around 7:00 a.m.
admitted that she had not been honest in her first interview
with the police on September 2. She explained that she was
scared -- appellant had threatened her and her family. Her
second interview with the police, roughly two weeks later, on
September 17, was played for the jury and more closely
followed her trial testimony.
testimony was corroborated, in part, by the testimony of
Tytina Williams, her boyfriend Gary Barham, and their friend
Donnie Eisman. They testified that on the afternoon of August
2, they drove in Eisman's car to Salisbury, Maryland
where Barham bought drugs from appellant, who was driving a
Lexus. An arrangement was made to meet later so appellant
could borrow Eisman's car. That night the three drove to
the Royal Farms store in Easton where appellant pulled up in
his Lexus with a woman inside. The woman got in the passenger
seat of Eisman's car, and they drove to Barham's
house. The three got out of the car, and the woman drove off.
During the early morning hours of the next day, the woman
drove the car back to the house. At the same time, appellant
drove up in his Lexus with a man known to Barham as
"Terrell" sitting in the passenger seat. The woman
exited Eisman's car and got into the back seat of the
Lexus, which then left.
appellant's arrest, he was held at the Wicomico County
Detention Center. On January 21, 2015, the detention center
seized a letter from the outgoing mail addressed to
appellant's fiancée and signed by appellant. A
scanned copy was sent to the State's Attorney's
Office. An expert in the field of handwriting analysis
compared exemplars of appellant's handwriting to the
scanned letter and concluded that she "was virtually
certain that the letter was written" by appellant. In
the letter, appellant admitted that he knew Guzman and knew
that he had acted as a drug informant against him. Appellant
wrote that Stewart killed Guzman as a "surprise"
for him and he "didn't have anything to do with
it." He wrote that Stewart had asked him about borrowing
someone's car to carry out the surprise. Appellant made
arrangements for her to borrow a friend's car, and
sometime that night, she showed him her "surprise"
- she opened the trunk and he saw Guzman lying inside.
provide additional facts as needed to address the questions
argues that the suppression court erred when it denied his
motion to suppress the evidence seized from two vehicles
associated with him -- a Dodge van and a Lexus sedan.
Appellant makes several arguments but mostly focuses on two:
the police did not possess reasonable articulable suspicion
to justify the stop of the van or to engage in a canine
search of the Lexus. The State disagrees, as do we.
reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, the record at
the suppression hearing is the exclusive source of facts for
our review. State v. Rucker, 374 Md. 199, 207
(2003). We extend great deference to the fact finding of the
suppression judge and accept the facts as found, unless
clearly erroneous. Id. (citation omitted). A factual
finding cannot be clearly erroneous if there is any competent
evidence to support the finding below. Hoerauf v.
State, 178 Md.App. 292, 314 (2008) (citing Fuge v.
Fuge, 146 Md.App. 142, 180, cert. denied, 372
Md. 430 (2002)). We review the evidence in the light most
favorable to the prevailing party, in this case, the State.
Cartnail v. State, 359 Md. 272, 282 (2000).
Nevertheless, we must make our own independent constitutional
appraisal by reviewing the law and applying it to the facts
of the case. Haley v. State, 398 Md. 106, 131 (2007)
(citing Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690
to trial, appellant moved to suppress the evidence found in a
Dodge van and Lexus sedan. Testifying for the State at the
ensuing suppression hearing was appellant's
fiancée and four police officers: Detective Jordan
Banks and Deputy J.C. Richardson, Wicomico County
Sheriff's Office, and Trooper Kenny Moore and Detective
Sergeant Chasity Blades, Maryland State Police Department.
7:00 a.m. on September 4, 2015, Detective Banks set up a
covert surveillance at 306 Prior Avenue in Salisbury where
appellant and his fiancée lived. Detective Banks was
instructed to advise other officers in the area when
appellant, who had outstanding warrants, left the home.
Sometime after 9:00 a.m., Detective Banks saw appellant exit
the home and drive off in the green Dodge van that had been
parked in the driveway of the home.
Banks maintained surveillance of the van until it was
observed by Trooper Moore, who then fell in behind it.
Trooper Moore testified he had been ordered to take appellant
into custody based on two outstanding warrants. Trooper Moore
testified that he made telephone calls the day before and
that morning and confirmed that the two warrants were still
valid. He testified that he did not attempt ...