2 Suspects in Robbery Plot Are Ordered Held Without Bond

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A judge ordered yesterday that two men accused of abducting a Prince George's County family in a failed bank robbery scheme be held without bond, and Maryland State Police investigators searched for a third suspect.

Yosef Tadele, 23, of Silver Spring and Yohannes T. Surafel, 24, of the District are charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, attempted robbery and first- and second-degree assault. In charging documents, authorities identified the third suspect as Beruk Ayalneh.

Police allege that Tadele dropped off Surafel and Ayalneh Friday night in Clinton, where they forced their way into the home of an assistant bank manager and held her, her husband and two boys -- ages 8 and 11 -- overnight at gunpoint.

The suspects planned to keep the children as hostages and force the woman to remove money from the SunTrust branch where she worked in Silver Spring, police said.

The plot was foiled after her husband, James Spruill, persuaded the assailants to let the entire family go to the bank about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, accompanied only by Surafel, according to police. Spruill, behind the wheel of the family car, attracted the attention of a state trooper by driving erratically on the Capital Beltway.

On the shoulder, Spruill lunged into the back seat, pinning Surafel's hands and yelling to the trooper that Surafel was armed. Police recovered a gun and a knife.

Tadele was arrested Sunday.

According to charging documents made public yesterday, he acknowledged driving Surafel and Ayalneh in Surafel's black Dodge Charger to the street where Spruill and his wife, Lachrista Hamilton, live.

Police have said the suspects and the victims did not know each other. The charging documents shed no new light on how or why Hamilton was targeted.

Inside the family home, the suspects bound Hamilton's and Spruill's hands with electrical cords and quizzed Hamilton about security measures at the bank, according to the charging documents. The parents were placed in separate bedrooms, and the children were held together in a third.

The suspects told Hamilton that they wanted her to go into a vault in the bank the next morning and fill a bag with money, the charging documents say. Hamilton was told that she and her family would not be harmed as long as she complied, the documents say.

On the way to the bank, Spruill was pulled over by state trooper Barrington Cameron. On the shoulder, on the outer loop near Route 1, Spruill handed Cameron a bank card instead of a driver's license in an effort to indicate that something was amiss. Surafel was in the back seat, jabbing a gun into the 11-year-old boy's ribs, police said.

Spruill then unbuckled his seat belt and lunged, pinning Surafel's hands and yelling about the gun, police said. Cameron pulled his weapon. Surafel surrendered.

About four hours after he was arrested, Surafel tried to kill himself in a holding cell in the College Park barracks, state police said. A duty officer intervened quickly after Surafel put his shirt around his neck and tied it to a cell door, state police said.

Surafel was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center for an examination, authorities said. He is being held in the medical unit at the Prince George's County jail, said Vicki D. Duncan, a jail spokeswoman.

In court yesterday, Surafel and Tadele did not speak except to tell District Court Judge Gerard F. Devlin, in answer to his questions, that they did not have lawyers. Devlin scheduled preliminary hearings for Surafel and Tadele for Jan. 26.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company