It was Halloween morning of 2008, in Hagerstown, Maryland. A man living on James St. in Hagerstown’s West End was just about to leave in his car for work when he observed the lifeless body of a male on the ground. As he approached the body, he observed that it was surrounded in a puddle of blood. The man was evidently deceased, having been stabbed multiple times. He was identified as 47-year-old Billy Lee Black, who lived just a stone’s throw away from where his body was found.

It wasn’t until November that there was finally an arrest in the case: 19-year-old Alec Scott Eger of Berner Avenue. He was charged with first-degree murder and felony murder.

Eger was a friend of Black’s 15-year-old daughter, Danielle Black. In the weeks leading up to Billy’s murder, Danielle had gone to Eger and told him that she was being abused by her father, Billy. Eger towered over most of the people in the community, and he was always carrying a knife, which made him the “go-to guy” when people wanted protection. He and Danielle were among a group of teenagers that were described as “a collection of outcasts and malcontents.”1 Danielle’s claims of abuse struck Eger hard. He had a very tumultuous upbringing that was marred by abuse.

At around 5:30AM on Halloween morning, Billy was leaving his home to go to work. Eger was lying in wait. As soon as Billy came outside, he was verbally ambushed by Eger, who accused him of sexually abusing his daughter. Billy denied the accusations vehemently, and Eger responded by stabbing him to death. He was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck. One stab wound was so vicious that it almost severed Billy’s spinal cord.

Eger then dragged Billy’s body to a spot near his truck. He then stole his wallet to give the impression that the murder was a robbery going wrong, before fleeing from the scene, leaving Billy to be found by a passer-by.

In December, Danielle was arrested and charged as a juvenile with solicitation of first-degree murder in connection with her father’s murder. Investigation had uncovered

Before approaching Eger, Danielle had approached another juvenile on the school bus with the same story she had provided Eger: that her father was abusing her and she wanted somebody to kill him. This juvenile, Matthew Gray, turned down the offer, and Danielle responded by saying she would get Eger to do it instead.3

Danielle was subsequently charged as an adult, dropping the juvenile charge. Conviction on solicitation of first-degree murder carried a maximum penalty of life in prison. Danielle was ordered to be held without bond.

Following Danielle’s arrest, her stepmother had come across journal entries in her bedroom. One poem was seemingly to her father, which read: “You said you would never do it again; this is good news for you; I can finally call off my people; so you don’t have to die; just understand if you do it again; you won’t have a life to live; your days would be numbered; your ass would be gone.”

In other pages, Danielle had threatened another unknown person. She wrote: “I’ll use my magic to hurt you” and claimed that she was a Wiccan. She ended the journal by writing: “I’m not afraid to go to jail.” Some other pages included dark poems that Danielle had written, including one where she wrote about “pain running through my veins.”

Danielle had been suffering from depression for quite some time. Back in February of 2008, she had taken 20 60-milligram Cymbalta tablets as well as 20 20-miligram Phenergan tablets. She was discharged from hospital the following day with a recommendation that she receive outpatient counselling. Following her arrest, she was diagnosed with adjustment disorder and had underwent clinical therapy sessions.  The sessions focused on her developing coping skills and strategies to cope with anxiety and depressive systems as well as grief related to the loss of her father,

Danielle would subsequently attempt to have her case referred to juvenile court. Her request was denied, and the judge ordered her to be charged as an adult. During the court hearing, defence attorney Mary Drawbaugh said that Danielle was suffering from undiagnosed mental problems. She said: “We have a very disturbed, troubled, untreated young lady who fell prey to peers who filled her mind with undesirable thoughts.”

Meanwhile, Eger’s defence team would request a psychiatric evaluation before he proceeded to trial. Since his incarceration, Eger had “exhibited active symptoms of psychosis as well as depression and possible seizure disorder.”

Danielle stood trial for the solicitation of her father’s murder in July of 2009. This charge was in relation to Danielle attempting to get Matthew to kill her father before the murder was carried out by Eger. Danielle’s defence team argued that there wasn’t enough evidence against her client, even though multiple people had heard the conversation.

The jury heard from several of Danielle’s school friends. Ashleigh Schmid told the court room how Danielle had told her that her father often beat her. On one occasion, she showed her a large bruise on her thigh. During a ten minute conversation, Danielle told Ashleigh she was going to ask a friend to kill her father. She even went into great detail about the plan, telling Ashleigh that she would distract her mother at 5:55PM and then go outside to find her father dead.

Ashleigh said to the jury she was so concerned about this conversation that she told her parents and then she called the Black home shortly thereafter. Billy answered the phone so she assumed Ashleigh must not have gone through with the threat. Ashleigh didn’t think much of the threat again, at least not until Billy was found stabbed to death.

Sean Stanton would also tell the jury that Danielle told him she was being abused by her father. He said that almost daily, Danielle said she wished her father wasn’t alive. Another friend, Samantha Holiday, told the court room: “He beat her… she wanted him dead.”

Matthew Gray, the teenager Danielle had first approached about the murder, testified next in exchange for immunity. She said that around a month before the murder, Danielle asked him on the school bus if he would take care of her father. He said he didn’t think she was serious, and jokingly replied: “What do I get out of it?”

During the trial, Billy’s wife, Andrea Black, testified against her stepdaughter. She stated: “We were a family for five years and I loved her.” She told the jury that Billy had not been abusing his daughter, telling them: “He felt guilty for ground her.” She said that Billy had tried to prevent his daughter from running around with the wrong crowd, stating: “He wouldn’t let her go with friends when she wanted to.”

The jury deliberated for around an hour and a half before finding Danielle Black guilty of solicitation of murder. She was ordered to serve ten years in prison. During the sentencing phase, Andrea provided a statement. She turned to Danielle and said: “Your dad never abused you.” She said that Danielle only hated Billy because he wouldn’t allow her to do whatever she wanted. She said that the night before Billy was killed, he hugged his daughter and told her that he loved her.

Finally, it came out during the sentencing phase that Danielle had made the abuse up.

In January of 2010, Eger took a plea bargain in which he admitted guilty to killing Billy but not that the murder was premeditated. He acknowledged in an Alford plea that prosecutors had enough evidence for a first-degree conviction. He was sentenced to life in prison. Before leaving court to begin serving his sentence, he apologised to Andrea: “Taking your loved one causes me so much shame.  This is never who I was or who I wanted to be.”

Outside of court, Andrea said: “He was a loving, kind, caring man. He was just trying to keep her away from people like that because he knew they were bad news.”

In 2011, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned Danielle’s conviction. They found that the judge erred in allowing evidence into the trial and also found that describing Billy’s murder was prejudicial. The decision read in part: “The details of (Billy) Black’s murder had little, if any, relevance to the question of whether Danielle solicited Gray to murder her father. We do not think it is possible to over-emphasize that Danielle was never charged in connection with her father’s murder, nor was Gray.”10

Danielle Black subsequently pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder. She was ordered to serve a life sentence with all but six years suspended. She was given credit for a little more than three years of time serve and was ordered to be subject to five years of supervised probation upon her release. She has since been paroled.