Teen held in mall killing charged in earlier robbery

Acquaintance of suspect describes Overlea holdup

February 23, 2005|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

The young man who police say killed a respected private school educator with a shotgun blast Friday during a botched robbery attempt in the Towson Town Center parking garage was charged last night with robbing a man near Overlea a day earlier - a crime in which the same type of gun was used.

Charged with both crimes is John Edward Kennedy Jr., 18, of Essex, Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey announced.

Two men who said they were with Kennedy Thursday evening told detectives that Kennedy approached a man on Belair Road near Taylor Avenue with a shotgun and stole his belongings, court documents in the robbery case show.

Kennedy and his co-defendant in the mall shooting, Javon Clark, 18, of Middle River, were ordered held without bail yesterday on first-degree murder charges in the death of William A. Bassett, 58, a teacher and dean of faculty at St. Paul's School. The longtime educator was shot in the head with a shotgun Friday on the fifth floor of the parking garage near the Nordstrom store during what is often a busy shopping hour at the Towson mall.

The shooting has renewed concerns about mall security, prompting a Baltimore County councilman to introduce last night a bill that would require video surveillance in all the county's shopping center parking lots.

The two suspects in the fatal shooting said little during a brief hearing yesterday in Baltimore County District Court in Towson. Appearing in orange jumpsuits and handcuffed to four other inmates, Kennedy and Clark acknowledged that they understood the murder charges filed against them and that the maximum sentence for those charges is death.

Neither young man has an adult or juvenile criminal record, prosecutor Stephen Bailey told Judge Robert J. Steinberg. But he asked that bail be denied for both defendants.

Defense attorney Lawrence B. Rosenberg, who is representing Clark, asked the judge to consider setting "reasonable bail." Of Clark's family, Rosenberg said, "They are extremely, obviously stunned and upset."

Kennedy, the alleged shooter, told the judge that he did not have a lawyer. But by yesterday afternoon, Donald E. Zaremba, Baltimore County's deputy district public defender, said the office had agreed to represent Kennedy. Zaremba declined to comment on the case.

While investigating the mall shooting, homicide detectives interviewed the housemates of Javon Clark, including Lavar Durant Clark, 19, and Bernard Woodfork, 21, court records show. The three live with another friend in a townhouse on Old Knife Court in Middle River. Court documents do not specify the relationship between the two Clarks, but neighbors said they are brothers.

Lavar Clark told police that on Thursday evening, he, Woodfork, Kennedy and their other roommate were driving around with a shotgun that Kennedy had purchased at an Essex gun shop when they saw a man walking on Belair Road, and Kennedy asked his friends to pull over, according to court documents.

Kennedy and Woodfork got out of the car, according to court documents. When they returned, Kennedy "had a black backpack and the shotgun," police wrote in the statements of probable cause that charged Woodfork and Lavar Clark in the Overlea robbery.

Lavar Clark told detectives that he asked Kennedy what he had done. According to court documents, Kennedy answered, "What does it look like?"

Woodfork told police that Kennedy pointed the shotgun at the victim, identified by police as Joseph A. Harris, told him to take off his pants and ordered him to run across the street before picking up his belongings, according to court documents and police.

Harris told police he was robbed of his khaki pants, backpack, CD player, jacket, cell phone, keys, Maryland learner's permit, four plastic bags of marijuana and $97 in cash, court records show.

Woodfork was charged with armed robbery, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and theft in the Overlea case. Lavar Clark was charged with theft and with being an "accessory after the fact."

Kennedy was charged last night with armed robbery and first-degree assault.

He and Javon Clark were arrested Sunday in the mall shooting after police received a tip from a motorist who had seen two men riding away, and, for reasons police would not divulge, jotted down a description and license plate of the suspects' car.

County police spokesman Toohey said that, with no surveillance cameras in the area where Bassett was shot, the tip from the motorist was pivotal in the arrests.

Towson Town Center officials, who said there are no surveillance cameras in the mall garages, said the shooting has prompted them to review security plans and add more patrols.

"Security is an art, not a science. There's no guarantee of anything," said David Levenberg, vice president of security and loss prevention for General Growth Properties, the mall's parent company. "Obviously, our desire is to deter and interdict as much as we can so we don't have incidents on the property."

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