WASHINGTON -- The mother of a 16-year-old Washington youth charged in the brutal death of Pam Basu said yesterday her son portrayed himself to her as little more than a bystander in the incident.
Deborah Miller said her son, Bernard Eric Miller, told her that his 26-year-old companion, Rodney Eugene Soloman, coerced and threatened him into going along with the hijacking of Dr. Basu's car last week. The older man even forced her son into undressing down to his boxer shorts to keep him from running away, Mrs. Miller said her son told her.
She denied, however, that Bernard told her he and Mr. Soloman were smoking marijuana mixed with PCP the night before Dr. Basu's car was hijacked. That version of the incident was attributed to Mrs. Miller in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post describing what Bernard told his mother about the incident. The story was based on an interview with Mrs. Miller on Friday, after she visited her son in the Howard County Detention Center.
Asked about the drugs yesterday, a young woman seated with Mrs. Miller on the concrete step in front of her northeast Washington rowhouse said, "What's marijuana?"
"Reefer," Mrs. Miller replied. Mrs. Miller, a thin, glum-looking woman, her eyes appearing swollen, smoked a cigarette as she spoke.
She said her son did tell her that he met Mr. Soloman shortly after leaving home to visit a friend around 9 p.m. Monday and stayed out all night, agreeing to ride with the older man, his friend and a 15-year-old girl in a borrowed Cadillac to visit the federal Job Corps center in Woodstock, on the Howard-Baltimore County line.
Asked why her son stayed away from home instead of returning to attend school Tuesday morning, Mrs. Miller said, "My son is a good guy. He just went along."
Although she refused to elaborate or repeat details of her version of what her son told her, Mrs. Miller confirmed her son had told her he and Mr. Soloman were trying to get gas for their stranded car when they encountered "the woman in the BMW." She also confirmed that her son told her "Soloman beat some woman up and took her car."
Bernard also told his mother, she said yesterday, that he was afraid to go with Mr. Soloman in the BMW until the older man cursed at him, shouting to "get the hell in the car." He was afraid of the older man, because he had beaten the woman, Mrs. Miller said Bernard told her. He also claimed he didn't know Dr. Basu was being dragged, because he was arguing with Mr. Soloman and trying to get out of the BMW.
She added that her son told her that they placed the baby on the roadway at one point during the incident. They did not throw the baby out of the car as reported in some early accounts, she said he told her.