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PALMDALE MAN SOUGHT IN MURDER, RAPES.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Sheriff's deputies are seeking the public's help in finding a second young man suspected in the slaying of a woman cab driver who was burned to death in her taxi.

Thomas Sylvester Murray Jr., 23, also is being sought on a warrant that alleges that he and five others, including one woman, kidnapped and raped a woman who came forward as a witness in the murder case.

``We're not really sure of the exact motive, but based on evidence and witness statements, we believe there are two responsible for the (murder),'' homicide Detective Mike Scott said. ``The crime scene led us to believe two people are involved.''

Also charged in the Jan. 6 murder of 28-year-old Crystal Angelica 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.

Murray, for whom an arrest warrant was issued in June, has managed to elude authorities despite being spotted in Palmdale by deputies and witnesses. Murray's mother, his girlfriend and his baby live in Palmdale. He is known to stay at motels in Palmdale, deputies said.

The other defendants in the kidnapping and rape case are Wendy Martin, Samuel Nunez, James Shannon, Miguel Gonzalez, and Gabriel Ramirez, Deputy District Attorney Lisa Chung said. The five, all Antelope Valley residents, are in custody, she said.

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

Chung said the victim was kidnapped twice over the Memorial Day weekend and raped once. She was kidnapped a third time on June 5 and raped again, Chung said.

The five defendants are scheduled to appear Monday for a preliminary hearing.

Murray, whose nickname is ``T.J.'' and who deputies say is considered armed and dangerous, is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds, and has tattoos on his back and scar on his face. He rides a 1992 Suzuki motorcycle, whose registered owner is codefendant Shannon.

Anyone with information on Murray is asked to call Scott at (323) 890-5500 or deputies at the Palmdale station at (661) 267-4309.

Stahl's body was found early Jan. 6 in the back seat of the burning cab in the parking lot of the Whosoever Will Receive Abundant Life Christian Fellowship Church, in the 37700 block of Palm Vista Avenue.

A passing motorist noticed the 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. They had to use dental records to identify her body because of the severity of the burns.

Stahl had driven a cab for United Independent Taxi for about a year. The cab company reported the taxi and Stahl missing before the fire was discovered.

Stahl had been placed on probation after she entered a plea to having unlawful sex with a minor - Willis, who was under 18 at the time - deputies said. The charge stemmed from an investigation into the death of Stahl's baby, who died under suspicious circumstances in November 1998, investigators said.

No charges were ever filed in the baby's death, deputies said.

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Sought in slaying
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 3, 2000
Words:579
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Next Article:HARDSHIP FUNDING SOUGHT PALMDALE OFFICIALS TO PLEAD CASE FOR EXTRA STATE MONEY TO BUILD SCHOOLS.


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