Man gets three life terms in killings of hack drivers in Baltimore in August '01

Families express grief in court for 3 men slain

October 23, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Through tears and anger yesterday, wives and other relatives of three unlicensed cab drivers slain in Baltimore in August last year told the man convicted in the killings that they hope he thinks about their loved ones every day as he spends life behind bars.

"Javas Hall, can you look at me?" asked Cher Cuffie Samateh, wife of one of the victims. "Can you look in my face? You took away a loving father, a supportive, devoted and attentive husband and a loving friend. My 3-year-old still has nightmares because she misses her daddy."

Hall, 20, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to three counts of carjacking in the slayings of Matthew Kenney, 29; Kajali Samateh, 40; and Tony Rogers, 31.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's editions of The Sun about the sentencing of convicted murderer Javas Hall erroneously attributed statements made by Bonnie Kenney to the mother of murder victim Tony Rogers. In speaking of her deceased son, Matthew Kenney, Bonnie Kenney said in a written statement: "I have been robbed of a son who loved me dearly. I will not see the boy, a grown man, become a father. The enormity of this is difficult beyond words. Only our faith has helped us these last months. ... We have no anger. Javas Hall, I do not know you, yet I do pray for you daily. You were once somebody's baby, and for that reason alone I pray for you." The Sun regrets the error.

During court proceedings, Hall often talked to his attorneys, occasionally smiling and laughing.

But he would not look at the victims' relatives as they addressed him and Chief District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin. He also declined to address the families or the court.

The men Hall is convicted of killing were unlicensed cab drivers, or hacks, who were all slain by single gunshot blasts to the chest. In each instance, authorities say, Hall asked the men to drive him to a specific location before killing them and stealing their cars for joy rides.

The case increased fear among hacks, whom police have long warned about the dangers of their trade.

U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio agreed to try the case in federal court after Baltimore police Commissioner Edward T. Norris asked him to consider handling it and another high-profile killing-carjacking that occurred that same month.

Yesterday, in a news conference after Hall was sentenced to three life sentences and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to the victims' families, DiBiagio heralded the convictions, which he called a "direct result of a partnership" among his office, the city state's attorney's office and police.

DiBiagio said Hall's conviction sends a "direct and unambiguous" message about law-enforcement officials' commitment to aggressively prosecuting gun violence.

Hall was apparently high on drugs when he killed the men, according to DiBiagio.

"He was an Ecstasy addict," DiBiagio said. "It was a rage killing, a thrill killing. He'd get rides from people, have them step outside the car and then kill them. One of the widows said it best: It was a killing for nothing."

Samateh stared at Hall as she spoke.

"I despise and pity you, Javas Hall. You obviously do not understand what it is like to be loved and to love. You killed three innocent men, for nothing."

Gladys Kenney told Hall that she and her husband would never get to have children, as they had planned. She said her husband would not be able to start a prison ministry as they had discussed.

"Matt was very special," Kenney said. "Matt taught me a lot in my walk, in my faith. He's just missed. We were looking to have children in the future. We were newlyweds. I do pray for you. I thank God he hasn't given me anger in my heart."

Elma Brown, Rogers' brother, read a statement from their mother that said in part: "I have been robbed of a son who loved me dearly. I will not see the boy, a grown man, become a father. The enormity of this is difficult beyond words. Only our faith has helped us these last months. ... We have no anger. Javas Hall, I do not know you, yet I do pray for you daily. You were once somebody's baby, and for that reason alone I pray for you."

Tiffany Rogers, however, was unforgiving of her husband's slayer.

"I cannot speak for anyone else, but I was hoping you would get the death penalty," Rogers said in a statement read by a woman who assists victims' families. "Before this happened, I didn't used to believe in it. As I can stand here today, all I can think about is how you took Tony's life for something as stupid as a car. I think you are an animal. ... Why didn't you just take the car? Our daughter, who is only 18 months old, used to light up when he would come in a room. I hope she will remember him, and I will try to make sure she does."

The killings occurred in a two-week period. Hall's alleged accomplice in one of the slayings, Jason N. Lewis of Baltimore, then 20, faces trial in state Circuit Court for his role.

Hall's lead attorney, Gerard Martin, said in an interview after the sentencing that Hall expressed remorse about the killings in a statement to police.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.