Alexandria policy yesterday accused a professed male prostitute and another man of murdering a Northern Virginia undertaker five years ago. Detectives called the case one of the city's longest murder investigations.
Only one of the accused men was in custody yesterday and police said they were seeking another on murder charges and a third for questioning in the death of Joseph J. A. Jessell Jr., a funeral home manager. Jessel's bullet-ridden body, clad only in a shirt and tie, was discovered in a gutter in western Alexandria on March 3, 1974.
Charles William Zeider, 26, of Richmond was jailed on murder and robbery charges and ordered held without bond in the case. In an interview in the Alexandria jail, Zeider said he was "a male hustler" and was present when the shooting occurred.
But he said he did not participate in the shooting and was surprised at his arrest. "I figured I never would get busted for selling my body," he said.
Police said yesterday they obtained a murder warrant against Scott Watson, 24, last seen in Temple, Tex., and were seeking a third man known only as "White Bill" for questioning.
Detective Louis H. Pugh said yesterday a break in the case came when he was contacted by homicide officers from the District of Columbia investigating several unsolved 1974 murders of homosexuals in the District. Pugh said that the officers had interviewed Zeider, who mentioned Jessell to them.
Zeider said he told District police that he was the driver of a white Lincoln Continental Mark IV in which Jessell, Scott Watson, and "White Bill" were riding at the time of the shooting. Zeider said he also told police that shortly after the shooting Watson gave him $250 and announced he was going to Temple, a town about 70 miles north of Austin.
Pugh said yesterday that Zeider had been interviewed by Alexandria police as recently as September, 1978, but that there was never "sufficient information" to arrest him. After his conversations with D.C. police, Pugh flew to Texas and later located Zeider at a halfway house in Richmond where he was serving time on a federal conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.
Yesterday, Zeider nervously drummed an unlit cigarette on a table in the jail were he was interviewed. "I have been a male hustler since I was 12 years old," he said. "I worked in Baltimore and Washington, mainly on New York Avenue, near 14th Street. In those days, you could make as much as $300 a day. Now people expect to get it (sex) for nothing," he said.
On the night of Jessell's death, Zeider said "White Bill" was sitting next to him in the car and Jessel and Watson were in the back seat. "We drove to Alexandria, and turned right on King Street. There was an argument, and shots. I hit the brakes and jumped out. I ran down a hill, through some mud, and called a cab from a service station. I did not shoot that man," he said.
In Virginia, anyone participating in a crime when a murder occurs can be charged with murder, according to authorities. Police allege Jessell was robbed at the time of his death.
Zeider is to be arraigned on Oct. 18.