Man charged in cabbie's death

March 07, 2009|By Justin Fenton and Gus G. Sentementes | Justin Fenton and Gus G. Sentementes,justin.fenton@baltsun.com and gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Robert Lee Murphy hailed a cab in Frederick and killed the driver when they arrived in Baltimore, police say.

Murphy, 22, of the 200 block of Douglas Court, was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the death of Stephen Mauk, 47, a driver for Yellow Cab of Frederick, who was dispatched to pick up passengers in his minivan and was never heard from again.

Police said Mauk was shot once in the head Jan. 26 while sitting in the driver's seat in the 200 block of N. Bond St., one block away from Murphy's residence in Douglass Homes.

Authorities began to zero in on Murphy as a suspect when they learned from witnesses that he had called several Frederick-area cab companies that night, looking for a ride back to Baltimore, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A motive in the killing was not known, and the gun used in the slaying has not yet been found, the source said. Police believe Murphy acted alone in the killing.

Authorities in three jurisdictions say that over a 10-day span, Murphy - who has a 2006 handgun conviction - carjacked a man in Frederick, committed theft with a gun in Howard County, and shot and killed Mauk. He is being held on $250,000 bond at the Howard County Detention Center on weapons charges.

A second law enforcement source with knowledge of Murphy said police believe he is a member of "L Gang," a subset of the Bloods, a gang that has risen in numbers in Baltimore in recent years. He has prior convictions for attempting illegal drug distribution and illegal handgun possession. He received nine-month sentences for each charge.

Mauk had a wife, three daughters and one grandchild. He had been driving a cab at night for about a year after being laid off from his job in operations at United Healthcare, his relatives told The Baltimore Sun.

The murder charges against Murphy were one of three cases closed by Baltimore homicide detectives in recent days.

Police arrested 22-year-old Marquis Jamel Evans in the Dec. 19 shooting death of Thaddeus McCauley Jr. in the 1400 block of Homestead Street. According to charging documents, Evans called McCauley, 19, to set up a drug deal, but when he arrived, he robbed and shot McCauley instead.

Evans, also known as Devon Dixon of the 1110 block of Gorsuch Road was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and handgun violations. He is awaiting trial on separate drug charges and received six years in prison for armed robbery in 2004.

Police have also charged Craig Whitaker, 20, of the 500 block of Denview Way in the death of Ramon Williams, who was fatally shot Feb. 22 in the 2500 block of Loyola Northway. Whitaker was already being held without bail in Baltimore County for a home invasion, and court records show he was on probation stemming from an August 2008 assault in the city.

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