Detectives investigating a 1996 homicide testified at trial in Frederick County Circuit Court on Wednesday to what led them to believe Lloyd Arbard Harris was responsible.
Harris, now 54, is charged with raping and murdering 15-year-old Stacy Lynn Hoffmaster on Oct. 1, 1996, in the woods near Interstate 70 and East South Street in Frederick.
Retired Frederick police detectives Jeff Hutchison and Edward Kornacki said their key early considerations were that the camp Harris built in the woods was the closest of several to Hoffmaster’s body. Additionally, materials from the site, including yellow nylon cord and a blue packing blanket, were found on Hoffmaster’s body when it was discovered on Dec. 23, 1996.
Harris’ attorneys pursued lines of questioning to suggest that someone else may have used materials from the camp precisely because it was nearby.
Other men were living in the woods, the detectives said, but they were eventually ruled out as suspects because they found no link between them and the campsite or the body.
The detectives acknowledged that no one appeared to be living at the site and Harris told Hutchison that he stopped living there July 4, 1996.
Harris told them he visited the camp sometime that November and found some items were missing, including the blue blanket.
Hutchison said he wanted to speak to Harris because of the connection between the crime scene and his camp, which Harris said he started using around 1992 or 1993 after splitting up with his wife.
At the time Hutchison interviewed Harris on Dec. 24, 1996, according to the detective, Harris lived in Hagerstown with a friend.
Hutchison testified that Harris became nervous when he was asked about Hoffmaster, twirling his hair. The detective showed Harris a photo of her and Harris acknowledged that he knew her from the neighborhood. Both Harris’s mother and Hoffmaster lived on Hamilton Avenue in Frederick.
Harris said he had seen her last around Oct. 2, 1996, waiting for her boyfriend outside McCutcheon’s, where the boyfriend worked.
Hoffmaster’s boyfriend was initially a suspect in her death, Hutchison said, but he was ruled out because he was at work that day, among other factors.
In a lengthy interview on Dec. 17, 1998, Hutchison asked Harris if he had sex with Hoffmaster, and he said no. By that time, police had recovered DNA evidence from her body indicating that he had. Hutchison confronted Harris, in his early 30s at the time, with the evidence, and he admitted having sex with the 15-year-old girl, according to the detective’s account.
Harris said they’d had sex the Saturday before Hoffmaster disappeared on Oct. 1, 1996. He did not admit he killed her, but he did say that if he had, it was an accident, Hutchison said.
Harris’ attorneys aimed to show the limitations of the detectives’ investigation, asking why cigarettes, bottles and other items at the camp and crime scene were not tested at the police crime lab. The officers responded that the lab selected what it would and would not test.
Assistant Public Defender Matthew Frawley asked why it took a year and a half to find Hoffmaster’s bra in the woods. Kornacki responded that it could have been under leaves and overlooked in the first search.
Officers found other items of her clothing the day her body was discovered along a footpath back to Harris’ camp.
Harris was arrested in January 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri, where his address was listed as a Super Inn motel. He is charged with murder, rape and third-degree sex offense and faces life in prison if convicted.
His trial is scheduled to continue through the week.