Inside the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore County in Catonsville, District Judge Karen A. Pilarski called from what all outward appearances seemed to be a routine case.

Frances Hamilton was seeking a final protective order against her estranged husband, Brice Boots, after she alleged that he hit her and struck one of her nephews during a fight about hanging coats in a closet on Dec. 30, 2023.

“I was afraid,” Hamilton testified at the hearing on Jan. 10. “I was afraid to be there. I didn’t want to be alone in there.”

Pilarski granted the final protective order and directed Boots to leave the home, pay $2,400 per month in emergency family maintenance and give up sole use and possession of a 2015 Chevrolet Corvette. She noted that he had been properly served — and failed to show up to court.

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But what the judge did not know is that Boots was dead inside a 2003 Toyota Sequoia in a field about 650 feet off the road in Walkersville. And the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office would later allege that Hamilton and one of her nephews, Keon Wilson-Hawkins, conspired to kill him.

The Baltimore Banner obtained audio of several court proceedings that shed more light on the tumultuous nature of the relationship between Hamilton, a former Baltimore Police officer who unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 2010, and Boots, a retired truck driver, in the days before his killing. He filed for divorce in 2022 in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Hamilton, 61, of Pikesville, was found dead in what’s suspected to be a suicide on Feb. 24 in Anne Arundel County. Wilson-Hawkins, 20, of West Baltimore, is now charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, kidnapping and carjacking.

Boots was kind and empathic and deeply cared about people, according to his obituary. He went to Edmondson High School in Baltimore and later attended Virginia Union University and Towson University.

On Jan. 3, Hamilton and Boots appeared for a hearing on her petition for a temporary protective order from domestic violence.

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During the hearing, Hamilton recounted her allegations against Boots. “The bottom line is he did hit me, just because I was moving his coats out of the closet that he wanted to stay in the closet,” she said.

Boots vehemently denied the accusations.

“I never touched her body whatsoever,” Boots said. “I went to grab my stuff, so she wouldn’t take it out.”

Hamilton, he said, was a former police officer. Boots said it was the second time that she had sought what he described as a bogus protective order.

Boots said he had not been in a fight since he was 14. Meanwhile, he said, he was about to turn 66. If he had hit her and her nephew, he said, “it would’ve been a rumble.”

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“I don’t have no record whatsoever,” said Boots, who asserted that Hamilton filed the petition because she was losing in the divorce case. “I have no domestic violence whatsoever.”

District Judge Michael W. Siri noted that the legal standard is low in these cases and granted the temporary protective order.

But Siri said he was not going to make a decision whether Boots needed to leave the home.

“Obviously,” Siri said, “I think we can all agree that you guys are both trying to get through the divorce and then kind of decouple, for lack of a better term.”

Siri said he hoped that the temporary protective order would ensure that both sides did not communicate.

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Next, on Jan. 4, Boots filed his own petition for a temporary protective order from domestic violence against Hamilton.

Boots asserted that Hamilton removed cards from the countertop as well as $1,300 in Invicta watches and four bottles of cologne to provoke him. Neighbors, he said, told him that they spotted his estranged wife coming in and out of the house with three young men.

“Is there any other reason that brings you here requesting a protective order?” District Judge Keith D. Pion asked.

“Yes,” Boots replied. “I’ve never seen these guys before. And she’s coming in the house with them two or three times a day. I don’t feel safe with these guys.”

Pion said he carefully listened to Boots’ testimony and read his petition.

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Under Maryland law, Pion said, he had to decide whether there were reasonable grounds to believe that Hamilton committed one or more prohibited acts against Boots.

“And so, while there might be things that are happening that are clearly affecting you — I get that, I can see that — there just is not sufficient information here for me to make a determination that there’s reasonable grounds to believe that she’s committed one or more of those prohibited acts,” Pion said. “Because of that, sir, most respectfully, your request is denied.”

Frances Hamilton, a former Baltimore Police officer who unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 2010, died on Feb. 24 in Anne Arundel County. The Frederick County State's Attorney's Office alleges that Hamilton conspired with one of her nephews, Keon Wilson-Hawkins, to kill her estranged husband, Brice Boots.

Hamilton and Boots were next set to appear on Jan. 10 for a hearing on her petition for a final protective order from domestic violence.

She appeared in court. He did not show up.

“Counselor,” Pilarski asked, “does your client wish to go forward in the absence of the respondent?”

“Yes,” replied Jennifer Stinnette, Hamilton’s attorney.

Prosecutors allege that cellphone location information revealed that Hamilton, Wilson-Hawkins and Boots were inside the couple’s home on Campfield Road near Sudbrook Road from the night of Jan. 9 through the early morning of Jan. 10.

Wilson-Hawkins and Boots, prosecutors assert, left the house after 4:30 a.m. and traveled on Interstate 70 toward Frederick.

At about 1:30 p.m., Frederick County sheriff’s deputies responded to Crum Road above Liberty Road, about 15 minutes northeast of Frederick. A caller reported that there was a vehicle that had been in the field with the flashers on since 7 a.m.

Law enforcement found Boots dead inside the car. He was 65.

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