Man's release raises question

Suspect later charged in killings freed day before 2nd body found

`There was no red flag'

October 09, 2001|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

A man suspected of killing three unlicensed cabdrivers in Baltimore within a two-week period in August was released from jail a day before the second victim turned up dead, court records show.

Javes Hall, 20, of the 1500 block of E. Eager St. was charged Aug. 21 with stealing a car. Police knew it belonged to a missing man, but never questioned Hall about him, detectives say. A judge released him without bail to await trial.

The missing man later turned out to be the first homicide victim.

On Aug. 23, a day after Hall's release, Kajali Samateh, 40, was found dead about sunrise in Clifton Park, killed by a shotgun. Five days later, at the same time, in almost the same place, Anthony Rogers, 31, was found dead, also killed by a shotgun.

The decomposed body of the missing man, whose name has not been released, was found Saturday. Investigators believe they know his identity, but are analyzing his dental records to be sure.

Hall has been charged with first-degree murder in the killings of Samateh and Rogers.

Detectives and prosecutors ascribe the killing spree to the most mundane of motives: the desire to ride around in nice cars.

The killer "chose [his victims] based on opportunity and probably on the type of cars," said Detective Martin Young, who has questioned Hall. "All three of them were very nice vehicles."

On Aug. 20, police arrested Hall and two other suspects as they ran from one of those cars, a 1998 Honda Accord that belonged to a man who had been reported missing by his wife since Aug. 14.

The man worked as a hacker - an unlicensed cabdriver. But Hall, a passenger in the Honda, was not questioned by homicide detectives about the missing man, said Col. Robert Stanton. In large part, that was because they knew that the man, whose car was found in a high-drug area, had drug problems, he said. In addition, his wife did not suspect he was dead, Stanton said.

"The keys were there," Stanton said. "There was no damage to the car, no blood in the car. At that point, there was no correlation to make."

Either the same night of his release, or early the next day, Samateh's car, a 2000 Toyota Camry, was hailed and he was killed. Samateh, of the 1900 block of Eutaw Place, was a father of two, an expert soccer player and a Fresh Fields employee.

Rogers, a resident of the 1300 block of Kenton Ave., was killed Aug. 28. Hall was arrested two days later when police caught him riding around in Rogers' Chevrolet Malibu.

Detectives quickly connected Hall to Rogers' killing and to that of Samateh, police said.

Second man also charged

Young said that Jason N. Lewis, 20, of the 3600 block of Garrison Blvd. was named as Samateh's shooter. Both men have been charged with first-degree murder in that case.

On Saturday, police began questioning Hall about the Aug. 14 disappearance of the third hacker, and learned the location of the man's body in a wooded area on the 4600 block of Denview Way, Young said.

Stanton said detectives were continuing the investigation.

Neither detectives nor prosecutors could say what led someone to kill these men. Money does not appear to be a motive, because the cars were not sold and, in at least one case, the victim was found with cash on him, police said.

Although Hall had a criminal history, including arrests for assault and marijuana possession, Stanton said, nothing indicated he was particularly violent. "There was no red flag," he said.

Considering evidence

Deputy State's Attorney Haven H. Kodeck said prosecutors will consider whether the evidence in the cases leads to capital murder charges, which could result in a death sentence.

Police and prosecutors say the cases underscore how dangerous it is to drive or ride in unlicensed cabs. This year, several hackers have been killed, police said.

Sun staff writers Michael Scarcella and Jason Song contributed to this article.

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