Phones tied to teen's death, police say

2 juveniles charged in stabbing linked to robbery attempt

November 21, 2006|By Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey | Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey,Sun reporters

They had partied at an after-hours club near M&T Bank Stadium, a sometimes rowdy place known for its wide dance floor and thumping music that draws young teenagers from all over Baltimore. Among the group were a boy from McCabe Avenue and a girl who drifted from house to house in the city and elsewhere.

The teens left the Paradox club around midnight and boarded a light rail train from a stop near the Ravens' stadium. Already on the train were Nicole and Marcus Edmonds, brother and sister, still wearing their uniforms from their night job at a Wendy's in Anne Arundel County.

As the train wended its way through the city's darkness, police say, the two teens who had left the club plotted to rob the siblings, who were chatting on their cell phones. They followed Nicole, 17, and Marcus, 16, off the train and onto the platform at West North Avenue.

Marcus was shoved to the ground and Nicole was chased under an Interstate 83 overpass, where police say she was stabbed twice in the upper body and left for dead. Yesterday, police identified Lataye S. King, a 16-year-old high school dropout, as the person who they believe stabbed Edmonds. She and Kendrick McCain, a 15-year-old eighth-grader, have been charged as adults with first-degree murder and were ordered held without bail.

Col. Fred H. Bealefeld III, chief of detectives, said the suspects wanted the cell phones. He offered new, chilling details about a slaying that unnerved people for its apparent randomness and raised fears about crime on public transit.

Bealefeld said that after he was freed, Marcus desperately tried to find his sister and used his cell phone to call her. He followed the ringtones and found her on the ground, bleeding. "Nicole urged him to hurry to where she was," Bealefeld said.

Police said the suspects never got the cell phones they were after, but did take Nicole's purse. Bealefeld said King later searched the purse and found a Wendy's chicken sandwich, which she ate.

A 25-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, Bealefeld struck a weary tone as he discussed the case with the media yesterday, saying that three families were "just totally destroyed."

"We really need a deeper reflection past these press conferences," Bealefeld said, as the homicide division commander, Maj. Fred Taber Jr., and Detective Sgt. Kelvin Sewell stood by his side. "The three of us don't want to be standing here talking about dead kids. It's easy to focus on the sandwich and the cell phone. This case can get lost in the sensational."

At her bail hearing yesterday, King's round face betrayed no emotion as she stood in a pink prison jumpsuit and as a clerk read the charges.

"She professes her innocence," James N. Rhodes, a defense lawyer appointed by the court to represent King, said afterward.

Rhodes said King was influenced by two adult men who he said instigated the attack, were on the train with King and were present when the homicide occurred.

"It is my understanding that at least one of the adult males played a significant role in what occurred that night. ... Adults saw the stabbing, and were the motivators," said Rhodes, who did not elaborate.

Police said that they believed only McCain and King were responsible in the attack.

Rhodes said King had been diagnosed with unspecified mental health conditions in the past. He said King was abandoned twice by her mother, and has had no contact with her father.

King and McCain were acquainted for years, growing up in the same neighborhood on the city's west side, according to sister Kyneita King, 19. But when her younger sister was a toddler, Kyneita King said, she went to live with godparents in East Baltimore. Relatives said the godparents raised her for many years.

But Lataye, as a teenager, was skipping school a lot, according to relatives and a former foster parent. A court investigator said at her bail hearing that she had only completed the seventh grade. Her attorney said she was enrolled at Pikesville High School, but her sister said the girl did not attend school.

While staying with godparents, Rhodes said, King was identified as a "child in need of assistance" by social workers, and moved to a foster home for a short period. But she then returned to her godparents' home, he said.

When police arrested her Sunday morning, she was staying with an adult boyfriend in Suitland, in Prince George's County, police said. But in the past, she was known to stay with her grandmother and sisters, in a rowhouse on McCabe Avenue in North Baltimore - a blighted neighborhood dotted with vacant rowhouses and speckled with gang graffiti.

"She was a ballerina. ... She was in a marching band," Kyneita King said as she showed visitors photographs of a young Lataye in a dance uniform. "Everybody is devastated. We know that Lataye wouldn't just up and do something like this."

Kyneita said their father was not around in their lives, but that they regularly kept up with their mother, who lives in East Baltimore.

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