Man is charged in carjacking-murder

April 22, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A simple telephone inquiry about a stolen credit card opened a trail big enough for detectives to track down a suspect in the carjacking-murder 14 months ago of wealthy Baltimore businessman J. Schuyler "Sky" Alland.

Mr. Alland apparently was not the victim of a random crime, but targeted specifically by the killer -- who authorities believe to be a former employee of Mr. Alland's market-research company, and to have planned ahead of time to sell the victim's $80,000 car.

The suspect, John Graham Bridges, 29, of Norfolk, was arrested last week in Norfolk and charged by the United States Park Police with committing the murder on federal property -- the grounds of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center -- on Feb. 18, 1992. Mr. Bridges, who formerly lived in Laurel and worked briefly in 1989 as a telemarketer for Sky Alland Research Inc. -- appeared in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday before Magistrate Judge Paul M. Rosenberg, who ordered him held by U.S. marshals.

In an affidavit, investigators alleged that Mr. Bridges had called his half-brother in Florida about a week before the murder to say he would bring a "top-of-the-line" BMW 750iL that he wanted to sell.

Park Police think Mr. Alland, 34, of Homeland, was abducted outside his business as he was getting into his black, $80,000 BMW 750iL about 8:30 on the night of the murder. The victim was found shot in the head two hours later on the Beltsville center property near Powder Mill Road and Route 197. His car, credit cards and briefcase were missing. Federal authorities are handling the case because the body was found on U.S. government property.

According to the affidavit, Park Police made the arrest after following a trail of telephone calls.

The first lead came two days after the murder -- an anonymous telephone inquiry to Citibank Mastercard's toll-free 800 number about Mr. Alland's credit card. The caller hung up after being unable to answer the operator's routine security questions.

Investigators obtained a list of hundreds of telephone numbers made to the Mastercard number during a 10-minute period. One of them had been placed from Tampa -- an address where the girlfriend of Mr. Bridges' half-brother lived while the suspect was visiting.

Mr. Bridges arrived in Florida in a black BMW on Feb. 19, 1992 -- a week after calling his half-brother to say he would be bringing a BMW to sell, authorities said.

When Mr. Bridges arrived, the half-brother said he would not be able to sell the car because of missing registration or title papers.

According to court papers, the car was driven from Florida to Norfolk last May, came into the possession of an associate of Mr. Bridges, and was sold in September for a reported $10,000 to an Englewood, N.J., man.

On Oct. 10, the New Jersey buyer asked a friend -- a New York City policeman -- to run a computer check on the vehicle identification number and learned that the BMW was stolen, and wanted in a federal homicide investigation.

The man ditched the car and told Englewood police where to find it.

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