A federal grand jury in Richmond yesterday indicted a 48-year-old woman and two of her sons on charges of murder, carjacking and conspiracy in connection with a scheme in which the mother allegedly posed as a prostitute to lure tractor-trailer drivers from Interstate 95 so the men could steal their rigs.
Vallia Friend and her sons Eugene, 27, and Travis, 20, of Richmond, were charged in the April death of Samuel Lam, 48, of Portland, Maine, a long-haul trucker who, according to the indictment, was fatally shot in a swamp near Lake Anna. His body has not been found. They also were accused of kidnapping and beating John Cummings, 62, of Georgia, outside Emporia, Va., also in April.
"This is the worst kind of family business you can imagine," said James B. Comey, an executive assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Richmond division, adding that his office will seek the death penalty.
Vallia Friend was arrested yesterday in Richmond. Her attorney, Brian Grossman, declined to comment on the case.
The investigation began in May, when the Friend brothers were arrested in Georgia after being pulled over for a routine traffic stop while driving in Lam's truck cab and pulling a trailer stolen in Tennessee. They were on their way back from Texas, where authorities say they had gone to buy a truckload of marijuana but ended up hauling carrots after the drug deal fell through.
According to the indictment, the Friend family--including a minor son and two others who have not been charged--found Lam while they were cruising the northbound lanes of I-95 in search of a target.
Vallia Friend and another woman allegedly made sexual overtures to the truck driver and induced him to follow them to a motel parking lot in Fredericksburg, Va.
In the parking lot, authorities said, Friend's sons and an accomplice abducted Lam, beat him unconscious, loaded him into his truck and drove him to the swamp, where he was fatally shot.
In the other incident, the indictment said, Vallia Friend allegedly "offered a date" to Cummings at a truck stop.
According to the indictment, Cummings declined, but the sons allegedly jumped him as he returned to his truck and bound him with duct tape.
The Friend family allegedly used his rig to haul a load of logs, then left him--still tied with tape--and his truck the next day at a gas station in Louisa County.
Comey said authorities do not believe the case is tied to the July 6 death of a 69-year-old Missouri trucker who was found shot to death in his parked truck in Woodbridge.