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. 

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