Second Man Faces Charges In Death

Insurance Scheme Suspect Arrested In S.c. Hotel

April 26, 2009|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

A second man was arrested and charged with murder Saturday in connection with what police said was a life insurance collection scheme that led to the shooting death of a developmentally disabled and blind man.

Baltimore police, in conjunction with South Carolina law enforcement officials, arrested James Omar Clea III, 31, of the 2800 block of Bookert Drive in Cherry Hill about 3 p.m. at a hotel in Orangeburg, S.C. Clea, who was charged with first-degree murder, is suspected of being involved in hiring a hit man to kill Lemuel Wallace, who was last seen alive Feb. 4, according to police.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police are investigating Clea's involvement in the killing, as it is unclear who fired the bullet that killed Wallace.

"He was definitely involved in obtaining a hit man for this murder," Guglielmi said.

Kevin Jerome Pushia, 32, a Baltimore pastor, was arrested and confessed to plotting to kill Wallace, police said. Pushia, a former operations manager for the Arc of Baltimore, which assists people with developmental disabilities, persuaded Wallace and other disabled people under his care to list him as a beneficiary on their life insurance policies, police said. Wallace lived in an Arc-affiliated group home on Maryknoll Road.

After Wallace's body was discovered in a bathroom stall at Leakin Park on Feb. 4, an insurance agent called police to verify that Pushia - the listed beneficiary - was not a suspect in Wallace's death. According to charging documents, Pushia was listed as Wallace's brother on the $200,000 life insurance policy, which prompted police to search Pushia's home. They found a day planner with a Feb. 5 notation that read: "L.W. project completed," as well as several life insurance policies that Pushia had taken out on Wallace's behalf, the records said.

Police said that, in an interview with officers after his arrest, Pushia confessed to taking out as many as six insurance policies on Wallace, adding up to nearly $1 million.

According to online court records, Clea is on probation in Baltimore for a conspiracy to commit armed robbery conviction in August.

An employee at the Sleep Inn hotel in Orangeburg said that Clea and two acquaintances were in town for a church conference, and said the men were staying at the hotel when Baltimore and South Carolina police made the arrest. Clea claims on his MySpace page to be a licensed preacher, and is listed as an elder with the Sounds of Praise Pentecostal Fellowship Ministries on its Web site.

"This is exceptional police work by detectives in this case," Guglielmi said. "These detectives have been working tirelessly, literally."

Guglielmi would not comment Saturday on Clea's relationship to Pushia.

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