Victim linked to drug case

Woman found dead in car trunk was tracked by U.S. agents

January 31, 2007|By Nick Shields and Matthew Dolan | Nick Shields and Matthew Dolan,sun reporters

A woman whose body was found in the trunk of her car this week in Northwest Baltimore had been tracked by federal agents as part of a drug investigation involving her boyfriend, authorities said yesterday.

Sintia Mesa had been monitored by agents searching for Jermarl A. Jones, who is charged with conspiring to sell heroin, according to federal law enforcement officials. Jones was in Mesa's car when he was arrested Jan. 3 in North Baltimore, a deputy U.S. marshal said yesterday.

No one has been charged in Mesa's death, which police are investigating as a homicide. It was unclear whether the drug case has any connection to the killing. Nonetheless, Mark Frederick, a deputy U.S. marshal, said he has shared information on the federal case with city homicide detectives.

The investigation into Mesa's death apparently includes a review of self-storage units that police were told have been used to store money. Mesa had a storage unit in the area, her sister, Claudina Mesa, said yesterday.

Howard County police said clothing was reported stolen Saturday in a break-in at a storage facility in Laurel, but police provided few other details.

Sintia Mesa, a 25-year-old Morgan State University graduate who lived in Hyattsville but worked at a salon in Baltimore, had been last seen Friday afternoon leaving a beauty salon in Randallstown.

After Mesa failed to show up for a meeting at her job Friday evening, Claudina Mesa called police, she said.

Sintia Mesa's cell phone was found in a garbage bin, according to police, who declined to give the location of the garbage bin.

Claudina Mesa and other relatives and friends handed out fliers in the Randallstown area Monday, but that afternoon police discovered Sintia Mesa's body in the trunk of her car in a parking lot near the 7200 block of Brook Crest Way.

Police did not say yesterday how she died. She was naked when her body was found, according to a law enforcement source.

There was no indication that Sintia Mesa has been charged with any crimes.

Mesa and Jones were close, said the woman's sister, Claudina Mesa. "They loved each other," she said.

Attempts to reach Jones, 31, of Hyattsville, for comment were unsuccessful.

Jones - whose first name is variously spelled Jermarl and Jemarl in court records - was charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in 1994 and was sentenced to eight years in prison with all but three months and six days of that term suspended, according to court records.

He later received a 4 1/2 -year sentence for violation of probation in the case, records show. Details of the crime were not available yesterday.

A warrant for his arrest was issued in September 2005, and he was indicted in February of last year on charges of conspiring to distribute heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

Those charges stem from the discovery in June 2002 of more than 2 kilograms of heroin - worth at least $200,000 - in a Cockeysville apartment that police came to believe was used as a "stash house," according to federal court records.

But charges against Jones' two co-defendants, Calvin Wright and Johnnie Butler, were dismissed last year after a federal judge granted the defendants' motion to suppress evidence obtained during the police search of the apartment on Breezy Tree Court in Cockeysville.

David R. Solomon, a defense attorney who represented Wright, said the judge dismissed all charges against Wright and Butler after finding that police should not have entered the apartment without a warrant before first exhausting other options.

The U.S. Marshals Service began to track Jones shortly after the criminal complaint was issued in 2005 but did not locate him until Jan. 3 of this year, according to Frederick, the lead deputy on the case.

Frederick said that Jones was in Mesa's car in the 1400 block of Roland Heights Avenue in Baltimore when he was arrested. The deputy marshal said that Mesa had been aware that authorities had been tracking her as part of their fugitive investigation.

Jones was brought into federal court Jan. 5 on the same charges. U.S. District Judge Beth P. Gesner ordered him released on his recognizance, directing that his travel be restricted to the East Coast, with advance approval from court personnel, and that he comply with a 10 p.m.-to-noon curfew, according to court records.

But Frederick said federal authorities, rather than releasing Jones, handed him over to authorities in Baltimore County, where he was named in a warrant related to a car theft charge.

That charge - filed in 2005 in Baltimore County - is pending. Jones was released to await trial, scheduled for next month in District Court in Catonsville.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Melissa Harris, Jennifer McMenamin and Gus G. Sentementes contributed to this article.

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