Teen suspects in Salvadoran worker's killing gave police clashing accounts

By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 26, 2010; B01

Javon Hale and Rafael Douglas, both 16, sat side by side in shackles Friday in D.C. Superior Court, co-defendants in the fatal shooting of a Salvadoran worker. And each heard testimony about what the other told police after the killing, their stories miles apart.

Hale asserted that he is innocent in the May 28 slaying of Manuel Sanchez, 29, in Southeast Washington, Detective Robert Arrington testified at a preliminary hearing. Arrington said Hale told police that he was driving near the shooting scene on the day of the homicide but that he had nothing to do with the crime.

Douglas acknowledged taking part in the attack on Sanchez, an attempted robbery gone bad, and told police that Hale was also involved, Arrington testified. But Douglas contended that neither he nor Hale pulled the trigger, the detective said. He said Douglas identified the shooter as someone he knows only as "Carlos."

Authorities allege that the two teenagers, charged as adults with first-degree murder, were lying in the interviews. On the witness stand, Arrington said one witness reported seeing Hale pull a handgun during a struggle with Sanchez, another witness identified Douglas as Hale's accomplice and both witnesses said no one else participated.

Asked by a defense attorney whether homicide detectives had sought to question "Carlos," Arrington grinned, replying, "I think the only one who knows Carlos is Mr. Douglas."

The remark prompted snickers in the courtroom, although not from the defendants. The slender youths -- Hale with shoulder-length dreadlocks, Douglas with a buzz cut -- sat silently wearing clean white sneakers and jail-issue orange jumpsuits, each handcuffed to a waist chain and manacled at the ankles.

Judge Gerald I. Fisher declined to dismiss the charges against them, rejecting arguments by defense attorneys that the prosecution's evidence is weak. And he declined to set bond, ordering the youths, who both live in Prince George's County, to remain jailed pending their trial, which has not been scheduled.

On the afternoon of May 28, Sanchez and two of his cousins, all illegal immigrants, were working at a vacant apartment building in the 4600 block of Hillside Road SE in the Benning Heights neighborhood cutting weeds and bagging trash. A 2005 Toyota 4Runner belonging to one of the cousins was parked in the back yard.

Police allege that the men were victims of a robbery attempt -- that Hale and Douglas wanted the Toyota. Hale was a ward of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and was let out of Boys Town, a group home, on a weekend pass just hours before the shooting. Arrington testified that on the day of the crime, Douglas was wearing an electronic monitoring device, but the detective did not specify why. The criminal records of juveniles are not publicly available.

The two youths allegedly walked up to the three workers, who were together at a rear corner of the building, and began wrestling with Sanchez and one of the others. A witness nearby later told detectives that Hale demanded, "Give me the [expletive] keys."

Hale's mother, LaShaun Hale, 43, said in interview this month that she thinks her youngest son is innocent because he told her that he is.

"The police is always putting things on my children that they ain't part of," she said.

She has two other sons: Jabraiyl Hale, 17, convicted of armed carjacking in Prince George's, could get more than a decade in prison when he is sentenced as an adult next month. Jamaal Hale, 23, arrested in March, has pleaded not guilty to abducting a man in the District, binding him with duct tape and torturing him with a heated spoon.

LaShaun Hale attended Friday's hearing, sitting in the gallery and offering criticism of Arrington's testimony in a voice loud enough to be heard at the bench. A deputy U.S. marshal finally leaned down to her, said something in a whisper, then ushered her out of the courtroom.

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