Suspected triggerman charged in murder-for-hire scheme

Police say blind, mentally disabled man was killed for insurance money

October 21, 2010|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

A year and a half after Baltimore police uncovered a murder-for-hire scheme in which they say two men conspired to kill a blind and mentally disabled man for insurance money, detectives believe they have found the man who pulled the trigger.

On Thursday, police charged Kareem Clea, the 27-year-old brother of one of the men awaiting trial in the plot to obtain life insurance money. Police say James Clea introduced his brother to Kevin Pushia, who authorities say paid $50,000 for the killing of Lemuel Wallace.

Wallace was found Feb. 4 in a bathroom stall in Leakin Park, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

For weeks, the trail was cold, until detectives received a call from an insurance company seeking to verify information on a life insurance policy taken out in Wallace's name.

That led police to Pushia, a pastor who worked with the developmentally disabled. He admitted that he took out $1.4 million in life insurance policies on Wallace, pleading guilty to his role in the conspiracy. He now faces life in prison.

James Clea, 32, who was arrested a short time later, is out on $250,000 bail awaiting a November trial. The fact that his brother is being charged as the shooter could complicate James Clea's defense — he has claimed that he thought the man was being paid only to beat up Wallace and intimidate him.

Pushia told police that James Clea arranged meetings with the hit man, including one at an Applebee's in Reisterstown Plaza. Court records show that "witnesses" identified Kareem Clea as the shooter. Donny Moses, a police spokesman, said Kareem Clea was picked up Wednesday by patrol officers who recognized him.

Pushia, who had worked as an operations manager for Arc of Baltimore, confessed after police serving a search warrant found a notation in his planning calendar for Feb. 5, the day after Wallace was killed, that read, "L.W. project completed," prosecutors said. The money used to pay the hit man came from the treasury of Pushia's East Baltimore church, which was destroyed in a fire.

Court records show Kareem Clea, of the 2800 block of Bookert Drive in Brooklyn, was charged in 2007 with handgun and drug charges that were dropped by Baltimore County prosecutors. Later assault and drug charges in the city were also dropped.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com



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