Carjack-murder suspect to face federal charges

City man indicted in pharmacist's death

February 22, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore man suspected in the deadly carjacking of a Glen Burnie pharmacist was indicted yesterday on federal charges that could carry the death penalty - the third case in the past month where federal authorities have stepped in to prosecute some of the city's worst violent crimes.

The federal indictment against Jamal D. Barnes, 24, identified him for the first time as the mastermind and spelled out a possible motive for the brazen attack that stunned residents last summer.

According to the indictment, Barnes set out Aug. 8 to find an easy robbery target because he urgently needed money to cover up an earlier crime, the cashing of a stolen $1,367 insurance check.

That night, the indictment says, Barnes and three teen-agers spotted 26-year-old Yvette A. Beakes driving her 2001 Acura after leaving a pub near Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They kidnapped her at gunpoint and withdraw $500 from her account before driving to a wooded area in Southwest Baltimore, where Barnes shot her in the head.

Barnes had faced state murder charges in the Beakes killing, but not the death penalty - a punishment now on the table in the federal case.

U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said no decision has been made on whether federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty, but he said the case against Barnes is a clear example of how federal authorities can best combat city violence.

"It is a very serious case. It is a difficult case. It is a case warranting federal resources, and it is a case warranting the more serious federal penalties," said DiBiagio, who was sworn in six months ago as Maryland's top federal prosecutor.

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who joined DiBiagio at an afternoon news conference to announce the indictment, said that two Baltimore teen-agers charged as adults in Beakes' killing had pleaded guilty this week in state court. Plea agreements would likely allow them to avoid life in prison, but require them to testify against Barnes.

Jessamy declined to comment in detail on the terms of the plea agreements reached in the cases of Brian Wilson, 16, and Larry J. Walker Jr., 16, who eventually led detectives to Beakes' body. Both teens pleaded guilty Tuesday in a quietly arranged proceeding in Baltimore Circuit Court to numerous felonies, including carjacking and first-degree murder, and will be sentenced April 16.

If he complies with the plea deal, Walker would receive a life sentence, of which all but 45 years would be suspended, Jessamy said. Wilson would be sentenced to a life sentence, with all but 35 years suspended.

Jessamy said prosecutors would recommend that both teens be referred initially to a juvenile prison facility.

The plea agreements were under seal in Circuit Court, but the young men's accounts of that night likely will prove crucial to prosecutors in their cases against Barnes and a fourth person, Brian McMillan, 18, who faces state murder charges.

An attorney representing McMillan has described his client as the least culpable of the four, saying he was not with the group when Beakes was killed.

One reason that state prosecutors could not pursue the death penalty against Barnes is that Maryland law would require independent corroboration of who shot Beakes - not just incriminating statements by co-defendants - to sustain a death sentence. In federal court, a jury can recommend a death sentence based solely on the testimony of accomplices.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris had urged federal prosecutors to consider taking the case against Barnes. It is the third time since mid-January that defendants who could have been tried in state court were steered instead to the federal system, where they face tougher punishment, including the death penalty.

Earlier, a federal grand jury indicted 12 men suspected of operating a violent East Baltimore drug gang responsible for five murders, including a killing at a Memorial Day block party last spring. In another case, a grand jury indicted a Baltimore man on federal carjacking and weapons charges in the deadly shootings last August of three unlicensed cab drivers in the city.

Along with Beakes' death, the cases were among the more shocking crimes in the city last year, each with innocent, unwitting victims.

The Beakes case also drew attention because two Anne Arundel County 911 operators were fired for failing to pass on to police officers information that might have saved Beakes' life.

Beakes, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland's pharmacy school, had gone to meet friends at Pickles Pub near Camden Yards the night she was killed. Yesterday's indictment alleges that Barnes and his accomplices targeted Beakes as they combed the streets that night looking for unsuspecting drivers who appeared wealthy.

According to the indictment, Barnes needed a quick way to get cash to repay a Park Heights check-cashing shop where he had cashed a stolen Allstate Insurance check for $1,367.

After trailing Beakes' new Acura almost to her Glen Burnie apartment, the indictment says, the young men staged an accident by bumping into the back of it. When Beakes got out of her car to inspect the damage and ask the other driver for insurance information, she allegedly was grabbed at gunpoint by Walker, who was wearing a ski mask and wielding a semiautomatic pistol.

An anonymous caller near the site of the abduction dialed 911 from a pay phone just before midnight Aug. 8, but quickly hung up, investigators said. Moments later, a woman called back to report a car accident and an assault on a woman.

Police were dispatched to the pay phone to check out the first anonymous call, but were not told about the second call that detailed the carjacking and described the vehicles, officials said. Yesterday's indictment said Beakes was killed just before 2 a.m. Aug. 9.

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