Arrests Made in Chevy Chase Robbery

Harold Gene Short and Diayna N. Bennett
Harold Gene Short and Diayna N. Bennett, charged in connection with a Chevy Chase home invasion. (Photos Courtesy Montgomery County Police)
By Cameron W. Barr and Mary Otto
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 31, 2006

On a snowy night in December 2003, Harold Gene Short and two other men held up pizza deliveryman Farooq Azam in Columbia. One of the three robbers distracted him, Azam recalled yesterday, while the other two snuck up behind him, sticking something hard into his ribs and telling him it was a gun.

Short went to prison for that holdup and other crimes, at one point winning a temporary work release after telling a judge that he was "a smart young man that made a big mistake."

Police believe a similar strategy was used to invade a home in Chevy Chase on Monday night: One robber went to the front door and rang the bell while three others entered the house through an open back door.

Yesterday, police arrested Short, 19, of the 5600 block of Vernon Way in Suitland, charging him with armed robbery, first-degree assault, burglary and use of a handgun in a violent felony during the home invasion. Short's girlfriend, D.C. resident Diayna N. Bennett, 20, of the 1700 block of D Street SE, was charged with accessory after the fact to armed robbery and first-degree burglary, although police believe Bennett was not in the house during the invasion.

Investigators said they are still seeking three other suspects.

Police said Short was the man videotaped at an ATM in the District while attempting to use a bank card stolen during the invasion, which began about 9 p.m. Monday. The four intruders held a couple and their two young children for 20 to 40 minutes in their home in the 3700 block of Underwood Street.

One of the intruders attempted to sexually assault the woman, but none of the family members was seriously injured. The couple's 2-year-old child and 6-month-old baby remained asleep during the attack, a police spokesman said yesterday. The robbers took bank cards and other items before fleeing.

Yesterday, residents along Underwood Street said they were delighted by the arrests, but none agreed to be identified. The Washington Post is not naming the victims because of the alleged sexual assault attempt.

Short's family could not be reached yesterday for comment.

In June 2004, a Howard County Circuit Court judge sentenced Short to 18 months in prison, with three years of probation to follow, for two counts of robbery, including the assault on Azam. Addresses in court records indicate that at the time of his arrest, Short lived at a group home operated by Starflight Enterprises Inc., a service provider for emotionally disturbed adolescents and adults.

At the time of the sentence, Short had spent nearly six months in jail and had completed an education employment program. The time was counted against his sentence.

Three days after the sentence was handed down, on June 17, Short wrote the sentencing judge, Raymond Kane Jr., a carefully printed letter on ruled notebook paper, requesting a court-ordered work release.

"I've just formed a relationship with God and I know what I did was wrong. I can't express how apologetic I am for the things that I have done. I would like to prove myself by working and being responsible. I owe five hundred dollars restitution and would like to pay it off," he wrote.

"Your honor, my plan for the future is to go to a community college (HCC) for a business deggree [sic]. I feel I can have a strong impact in a sales department . . . ''

Not quite three months later, on Sept. 16, 2004, Kane granted Short a work release. But three weeks later, he was in trouble again.

"On October 6, 2004, Mr. Short was removed from work release participation," correctional specialist Darlene Jolly wrote in a letter to the judge. "He was found guilty of tampering and defacing jail security equipment."

On Dec. 10, 2004, Kane signed a probation/supervision order for Short authorizing the transfer of his supervision to the District.

Yesterday, a court commissioner ordered Short held on $1 million bond and set Bennett's bond at $10,000. A Montgomery County judge will hold a bond hearing for the two on Monday.

Researcher Meg Smith and staff writer Ernesto Londoño contributed to this report.

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