The two men suspected in the slaying of a Perry Hall Christmas tree dealer planned to rob him, use the money to relocate to Florida, and, if something went wrong, to kill him, court documents show.
Steven Lee Ussel, 21, and David Lawrence Carlton, 28, both of eastern Baltimore County, were arrested Christmas Day in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 23 death of Paul Robert Zinkhan, 53, Baltimore County police said.
Mr. Zinkhan died of blunt force trauma, although the weapon has not been found, police said.
A county homicide detective and another police official went to Jacksonville Beach Christmas night to interview the suspects, who yesterday waived their right to extradition in a hearing in Florida. The two will be transported back to Maryland today at Baltimore County's expense, said Cpl. Kevin Novak, a county police spokesman.
Days before the slaying, Mr. Ussel revealed parts of the plan to several witnesses, none of whom wanted to be identified, according to charging documents filed in District Court in Towson.
Mr. Ussel, whose last known address was in the 1200 block of Bridge Crossing Road in Essex, told witnesses he spent his last $400 on crack cocaine and planned to rob Mr. Zinkhan "because he needed the money to get to Florida to live with his brother," the documents said.
When a witness asked Mr. Ussel what he would do if caught robbing Mr. Zinkhan, he replied: "What do you think I'm going to do. I'm going to kill him," according to the documents, which also said Mr. Ussel's former girlfriend used to clean for the victim.
Detectives found two of Mr. Zinkhan's pockets were turned out, indicating an apparent robbery. "It appeared the victim had been securing the door to the A to Z Greenery at the time he was attacked," the charging documents said.
Mr. Zinkhan owned the nursery in the 9700 block of Belair Road and lived in a trailer on the property. He sold plants and produce in the summer and Christmas trees during the holidays.
The court documents said Mr. Ussel told a witness that he was going to have Mr. Carlton, whose last known address was in the 1900 block of Madison Road in Dundalk, "do all of his dirty work," charging documents said.
After the slaying, county police put out bulletins asking officers in the eastern United States to be on the lookout for Mr. Ussel and Mr. Carlton. Jacksonville Beach officers arrested them in a phone booth, police said.
Other court records show that Mr. Ussel was charged in several cases between October and December for trespassing, harassment, battery and malicious destruction of property.