2 men arrested in Calif. in killing of girl whose body was set on fire

Death of Woodlawn teen set off nationwide search

October 03, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Two men wanted in the killing of a Woodlawn girl whose body was set on fire were arrested Friday in a remote Northern California town, ending an intense search that spanned the country and lasted more than two months, Baltimore County police said yesterday.

Eric Thomas Watkins, 18, of the 3300 block of Frisby St. in Baltimore and Jason Terrance Richards, 24, of the 7400 block of Kathydale Road in Pikesville were arrested late Friday in the death of 15-year-old Quartrina K. Johnson by FBI agents near Ukiah, Calif., about 100 miles north of San Francisco, said FBI special agent LaRae Quy of the agency's San Francisco division.

"They were considered armed and dangerous, but they were arrested without incident," Quy said. "Our SWAT team surrounded them, and they didn't know what hit them - they just surrendered."

Watkins and Richards are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Johnson, who ran away from her foster home July 19. Her burning body was found a day later at Gwynnvale Park in Pikesville after county firefighters responded to what they thought was a small brush fire.

Members of the FBI's Joint Fugitive Task Force had been assisting Baltimore County detectives in their hunt for the men, police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

Toohey declined yesterday to release details of the arrests, saying that investigators were not ready to reveal how they tracked the men to the West Coast. He said Watkins and Richards will be returned to Maryland soon, though he could not say when.

In Ukiah, a community of about 15,000 people, authorities said yesterday that they weren't shocked to find two fugitives in their midst.

The area in which the men were found lies along U.S. 101 in the lush Yokayo Valley, where many residents hold onto a live-and-let-live philosophy that makes the location seem welcoming to transients and others who want to live unnoticed, said Sgt. Ron Welch of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Mendocino County is 3,000 square miles with a population of about 86,000, Welch said, and has many isolated locations. "We're really kicked back here. There's a lot of stuff that goes on in the hills. They [the locals] just know to stay out of there," he said.

The men were the last two suspects sought in the girl's death. Police earlier arrested two other men, Michael X. Shelton, 18, of the 700 block of Kahn Drive in Pikesville and Ogden E. Coleman, 20, of the 7300 block of Campfield Road in Pikesville.

Shelton was arrested and charged July 31 with first-degree murder.

Coleman, who police say set the girl's body ablaze to hide her identity, was arrested and charged July 30 with being an accessory after the fact.

A medical examination revealed that Johnson may have died from asphyxiation, though she also suffered head trauma, according to court documents.

Quartrina Johnson's mother, Quarnoda Sellers, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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