Possible motive offered in killing of Balto. Co. girl

Mother of 15-year-old says teen may have witnessed sex crime

October 06, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The mother of a 15-year-old Woodlawn girl whose body was set on fire said her daughter might have witnessed a sex offense the week before her death, suggesting a possible motive in the July killing.

Quarnoda Sellers said Baltimore County police have told her that her daughter, Quartrina Johnson, may have seen a man having sex with a 13-year-old girl - and that she was told that Quartrina might have been killed to keep her from revealing what she knew.

Police would not discuss any motive in the death of Quartrina, whose body was found July 20 in a Pikesville park.

"There was a report of a sexual offense early in the morning of July 11, and we are investigating to see if it was linked to the murder," county police spokesman Bill Toohey said yesterday.

No charges have been filed in the reported sex offense, according to police.

The Sun is not disclosing some details of the reported sex offense to protect the identity of the 13-year-old girl.

Four men have been charged in Quartrina's death, including two men who were arrested last week in California.

Jason T. Richards, 24, of the 7400 block of Kathydale Road in Pikesville and Eric T. Watkins, 18, of the 3300 block of Frisby St. in Baltimore were arrested late Friday by FBI agents near Ukiah, Calif., about 100 miles north of San Francisco.

Their arrest warrants charge them with first-degree murder. They are being held in California on federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, police said. Toohey said it could be weeks before the men return to Maryland.

Michael X. Shelton, 18, of the 700 block of Kahn Drive in Pikesville was arrested in late July and charged with first-degree murder. Ogden E. Coleman, 20, of the 7300 block of Campfield Road in Baltimore also was arrested in July and is charged as an accessory after the fact. Coleman set Quartina's body on fire after the other three strangled her, charging documents allege.

The charging documents in Quartrina's death make no mention of any sex crime. The documents give no motive for the girl's killing.

On July 19, a week after the alleged sex offense, Quartrina ran away from her foster home in Woodlawn.

The 13-year-old girl later told police that she and Quartrina got into a car that day with Richards and Watkins, according to charging documents in the murder case.

Quartrina was last seen with Richards and Watkins, according to the court documents. Later that night, one of the men charged with Quartrina's murder told the 13-year-old that he and his accomplices had strangled Quartrina and burned her body, the girl told police, according to charging documents.

A badly burned body was found early the next morning in Gwynnvale Park in Pikesville, and it was identified about a week later as Quartrina's, police said.

Sellers, a Reservoir Hill resident, said that although her daughter had been living in a foster home for about a year, the two talked every day - in person or on the phone.

Her daughter had been a straight-A student when the family lived together in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Bentalou, Sellers said. Quartrina had three brothers and three sisters.

Sellers said last week's arrests give her a little relief after months of frustration. But she said the suggested motive for the killing still puzzles her because another witness to the alleged sex crime - the victim - was not injured.

"Something's not adding up," she said.

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