Candy box links one suspect to man slain in Montgomery park
Should the allegations against Earl Junius Bennette prove true — police asserted Saturday that he and an associate killed a 22year-old man in a Montgomery County park this month — Bennette surely will regret that box of Mike and Ike candy.
The box was found near the body of the victim. Detectives say fingerprints on the box matched Bennette’s, according to charging documents in the case. Other evidence implicating Bennette included cellphone contact with the victim and information from four people, at least one of whom didn’t provide his or her name to detectives, according to the documents. Bennette, 24, was arrested Friday in Silver Spring. He was being held in the county jail Saturday on no-bond status. He has been charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery counts, as has Shante Gladden, 22, according to police. Gladden was arrested in the District.
It was unclear whether Bennette has retained an attorney. An attorney listed in court records for Gladden could not be reached.
In arrest records, detectives described the killing as drugrelated. The victim, Garrett Alexander McClees, was known to sell marijuana where he was killed: Edgewood Neighborhood Park, along Robey Road, in the county’s Briggs Chaney area, according to police. At the scene, detectives also found packaging with a “pungent” smell of marijuana, according to police, but no marijuana.
Shortly before 5 p.m. on Oct. 8, 911 operators received multiple calls about sounds of gunshots in the park. Officers arrived and found McClees with a gunshot wound to the torso. They could not find any eyewitnesses, according to charging documents.
Four hours after the slaying, police received a tip stating that “EJ” and another man were present during the homicide. Detectives identified “EJ” as Earl Junius Bennette using law enforcement databases. The caller would not provide a name or phone number, police said.
The same tipster called twice more, saying that “EJ” took the victim’s backpack and that another man “came out of the bushes and shot the victim,” according to charging documents.
Another witness, who lives near the park, told police of seeing two men walking toward the park just before gunfire erupted. That witness picked Bennette out of a photo array, according to police.
Charging documents do not spell out how far away the box of candy was from the victim. The fingerprints were lifted by a crime scene technician on Oct. 14, according to police, and matched later that day to Bennette’s, which were on file.
According to cellphone records, Bennette contacted the victim at 4:40 p.m. and his co-defendant at 4:42 p.m. A minute later, authorities started receiving reports of gunshots in the park.