Stolen car drags owner to death Mother's baby girl is inside car when two seize it and speed off

September 09, 1992|By James M. Coram and Alisa Samuels | James M. Coram and Alisa Samuels,Staff Writers

A Howard County woman was killed yesterday when she was dragged nearly two miles dangling from the door of her BMW after two abductors sped away in the car with her 22-month-old daughter still inside.

The little girl was put out of the car unharmed, and the police captured two suspects after the horrifying ride witnessed by numerous people, powerless to intervene.

The victim, Pamela Basu, 34, who was taking the child to her first day of preschool, either refused to let go or was caught in the door on the driver's side after she was forced from behind the wheel at a stop sign near her home in the 9600 block of Horsham Drive near Laurel, a county detective said.

About a half-mile away, the abductors pulled over and set the toddler onto the road unharmed. But Mrs. Basu was still hanging from the car as it was driven away, according to the police.

A damaged wooden post from a barbed wire fence was found near the mother's body, which had a portion of the wire wrapped around it -- evidence that the car was driven into the fence "with an intentional act . . . by defendants to dislodge [Mrs.] Basu" from her car, police said in a statement of charges filed last night at the District Court in Ellicott City.

The drama ended several miles away after the car ran into a second fence and officers arrested Rodney Eugene Solomon, 27, and Bernard Eric Miller, 16, both of Washington, police said.

The suspects were charged with first-degree murder, two counts of robbery and two counts of kidnapping. The teen-ager was charged as an adult. Both were ordered held without bail at hearings before a District Court commissioner.

The Miller youth appeared stunned as Commissioner John Lewis Jr. read the murder charge, suddenly sitting up and declaring, "Excuse me, sir, I didn't do it." The youth, dressed in white jail overalls, trembled during the brief hearing.

Mr. Solomon, however, had a hard time staying awake during his hearing and was repeatedly jarred into consciousness by officers.

"Why are you asking me all these questions?" he told Commissioner Lewis. "Everything you asked me is on the paper."

Police said the two suspects attempted at least one other car theft in the area yesterday after a Cadillac they were driving broke down on Interstate 95 near Laurel.

Mr. Solomon -- who police alleged was driving Mrs. Basu's car -- has prior arrests in the District of Columbia on charges of robbery, assault with intent to murder, and narcotics violations, police sources said. He told the court commissioner, however, he had no prior arrests.

Witnesses said Mrs. Basu was still alive when her car sped west on Gorman Road, a half-mile away from where it had been seized. As it rounded the corner, the car turned onto the shoulder and cut off another car, and the occupants stopped to set the toddler, in a child-restraint seat, out of the BMW, police said.

"I had to put on my brakes to avoid an accident," said Keith McLamb of Fens Hollow Drive, who had been returning home on Gorman Road shortly after 8:30 a.m. when a car cut in front of him.

"The car pulled over onto the shoulder, dragging what appeared to be a dummy from the driver's side," he said. "There was activity inside the car like people having a domestic argument. It was surreal."

He said the child "walked to the middle of the road as the car pulled off. I saw the woman moving as the car took off.

"It was the first time I knew she was a person and that she was alive. I could see her hands and shoulders. I assumed she was hanging on. A lady in the car behind me picked up the child. Another car made a U-turn and took off after them. I followed also, but they were gone."

Catherine Nehring was the woman who picked up the child, took her to her home and called police.

"She was crying a little, but not a lot," said Mrs. Nehring, 32. "I think she was in shock and didn't know what was going on."

The child's father came about 10:30 a.m. and "just broke down crying," Ms. Nehring said. Paramedics also arrived to examine the child.

Ms. Nehring said she thought it was a dummy she had seen dangling from the car. She said she didn't realize it was a person until she saw human hair in the street.

"[The body] was lifeless," she said. "Her feet were bouncing off the pavement. I don't know how she could have been alive at that point."

A half-mile up the road, Sandra Benz was at Falling Waters Court at Gorman Road with her 2-year-old son when she "saw that BMW dragging a body and thought, 'This is an awfully expensive prank for teen-agers to be putting on.'

"I turned to the woman next to me and said, 'That wasn't a person, was it?' And she said, 'Yes, it was.' "

Mrs. Basu was found lying on Gorman Road, just west of I-95. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Left behind was a gruesome trail of evidence -- blood that began across from a playground just past the intersection where the car was hijacked and continued down Horsham Drive and left on Gorman Road for a distance of two miles.

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