Man is freed in carjacking case

Dundalk man was held in jail 51 days, despite arrest of other suspect

May 09, 2006|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

Fifty-one days after a woman picked him out of a photo lineup - and 50 days after a second woman pointed to someone else in the carjacking - Steven Edward Liller Jr. walked out of a Towson jail yesterday.

Baltimore County prosecutors said they needed time to determine whether Liller was involved in a police chase and carjacking in March. But when the charges were dismissed yesterday, Liller's attorney told a Circuit Court judge, "This should have been done a long time ago."

Liller, a 24-year-old Dundalk man with multiple arrests on his record, had been accused of ramming a stolen truck into a police vehicle, abandoning the truck in the woods and fleeing in the car of a woman he had thrown to the ground.

Liller proclaimed his innocence. Now Liller's attorney questions why Liller wasn't released sooner.

"There's just no good excuse for why they kept this guy in jail for a crime this serious" when prosecutors had evidence that pointed to another man, said the attorney, F. Spencer Gordon.

A deputy state's attorney for the county said the case was handled appropriately.

"We were being diligent every step of the way in trying to meet our responsibilities to both making sure we don't have someone wrongfully accused while at the same time not releasing someone back into the community" who may have been guilty of a crime, said Deputy County State's Attorney Stephen Bailey.

According to police reports provided by the defense, an officer spotted two men in a stolen truck near Eastern Boulevard in Baltimore County on March 17. When an officer set up a roadblock, the truck accelerated, struck the side of a police car and got away after a chase. The truck was later found in woods nearby.

Twenty minutes later, police received a call of a carjacking in front of a home near the woods. A woman told investigators that a man "pulled her out of the vehicle and onto the ground" and drove off, according to a police report.

Prosecutors said Liller's mug shot was included in a lineup of six photos because of his arrest record, which included charges of assault, burglary, theft and the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Many of the charges were dismissed, though Liller had been convicted of trespass, drug possession and theft.

The woman identified Liller as the carjacker, and he was arrested March 18 at his mother's house in Havre de Grace.

Two days after the carjacking, a woman being held on unrelated charges in Frederick County told police that her friend had told her that he had stolen a truck, led police on a chase and carried out a carjacking.

After an investigation, police charged Kenneth Michael Billes, 24, of Dundalk with carjacking and assault.

John Cox, an Baltimore County assistant state's attorney, said prosecutors did not drop the case against Liller sooner because they were looking into whether Liller was the other man in the stolen truck, and whether he might have been involved in the carjacking.

He said prosecutors now believe the woman had incorrectly identified Liller as the carjacker.

Prosecutors decided to drop the case against Liller last week, Cox said.

"If there is reason to believe this person was involved [in a crime] we have a responsibility to our victims to look into this as much as we can before we can just let people go," Cox said.

Gordon said he was so convinced of Liller's innocence that he had arranged for his client to take a polygraph test. But he said prosecutors had not set a date to dismiss the case until Gordon called them last week after learning, through documents provided by the prosecutors, that a second man had been arrested.

Liller, who attributes his previous arrests to a drug problem and said that he recently moved in with his mother to turn his life around, said he is thankful that he will not have to defend himself in court.

"I kept on telling them they have the wrong guy, I'm innocent," Liller said in a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, shortly after his release. "There was nothing I could do but get mad."

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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