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MAN GIVES UP AT JAIL FUGITIVE'S FATHER SAYS SON NOT GUILTY.

Byline: Greg Botonis Staff Writer

PALMDALE - A Palmdale man wanted on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and murder turned himself in Tuesday at Twin Towers Jail, with his father by his side asserting his innocence.

Thomas Sylvester Murray Jr., 24, was wanted in the slaying of 28-year- old cab driver Crystal Angelica Stahl, who was burned to death in her taxi. He is also charged along with five others in connection with the kidnapping and rape of a witness to the murder.

Murray's father, in an interview after his son's surrender, says his son was linked to the crimes only because he is acquainted with other defendants and with the kidnapping victim, who told deputies she was kidnapped twice over the Memorial Day weekend and again June 5.

``He knows a couple of (the other defendants) and he knew the young lady that said she was kidnapped. They all used to hang out together, but he didn't have anything to do with any of it,'' said Thomas Sylvester Murray Sr.

The younger Murray was reported being held without bail.

Murray Sr. said his son told him he was unaware that he was charged in either crime until an Aug. 3 Daily News article reported that investigators were asking for the public's help in locating him.

After discovering that a warrant for his arrest had been issued, the younger Murray refused to turn himself in until he and his family celebrated his son's 4th birthday last week and until he was able to take his son to his first day of school Monday, his father said.

The elder Murray described his son as a nice, churchgoing young man who is respectful and not at all violent.

``We're all very upset with what he's being charged with, and it's tearing us apart,'' said the elder Murray, a Santa Monica city bus driver. ``He's innocent and we'll prove that.''

The elder Murray would not say where his son had been staying while sheriff's deputies were looking for him, but said he had occasionally visited his family's Palmdale home, where he had lived with his parents, girlfriend and son.

His mother wanted him to stay away for fear that she might have to watch her son being arrested and that might ``hurt her even more than all this already has,'' the elder Murray said.

Also charged in the Jan. 6 murder of Stahl is Stahl's 18-year-old ex-boyfriend, Ryan Willis of Palmdale. Willis, arrested in March, has pleaded not guilty to murder, kidnapping and robbery.

Willis is charged with four special allegations, including torture and lying in wait, which could make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.

The other defendants in the kidnapping and rape case are Wendy Martin, Samuel Nunez, James Shannon, Miguel Gonzalez and Gabriel Ramirez.

The charges against them include rape, forced oral copulation, kidnapping, false imprisonment and making terrorist threats. Murray Jr. and Shannon are both being charged with raping the victim.

Officials say the victim was kidnapped twice over the Memorial Day weekend and raped once. She was kidnapped a third time June 5 and raped again.

The kidnapping charges were dismissed Aug. 7 by Lancaster Superior Court Judge Steve Ogden, who questioned the victim's credibility and said details of her story had changed in her different interviews with deputies.

Prosecutors refiled the charges for a hearing before another judge next month. They said they believe the evidence against the six defendants was enough to hold them for trial.

Stahl was found in the back seat of a burning United Independent Taxi cab in the parking lot of the Whosoever Will Receive Abundant Life Christian Fellowship Church on Palm Vista Avenue.

A passing motorist noticed flames and called the Los Angeles County Fire Department about 1 a.m.

Coroner's officials said Stahl was alive when the cab was set ablaze. Because of the condition of the body, they had to use dental records to identify her body. The cab company reported the taxi and Stahl missing just before the fire was discovered.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 30, 2000
Words:681
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