Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baltimore pastor charged with having disabled man killed worked in group home

From The Baltimore Sun:

A Baltimore man accused of conspiring to have a mentally disabled man killed for life insurance money - and who told detectives he had become a beneficiary on the life insurance policies of other disabled individuals - was working as a caretaker at a Howard County group home at the time of his arrest, The Baltimore Sun has learned.

Kevin Jerome Pushia (pictured) was an overnight caretaker at a Columbia group home for 13 years, working on weekends to help supervise three developmentally disabled adults, the head of the company that operates the home confirmed April 27.

David Coughlin, executive director of Hunt Valley-based Richcroft Inc., said that after learning of Pushia's arrest, he and another employee conducted "risk assessments" April 27 of the men who have been under Pushia's care.

Coughlin said he talked with other staff about Pushia's behavior and concluded that the residents are not in danger.

He said he has not contacted police about Pushia's work for his company.

"We were satisfied that nothing was [happening] that could put any of our people at risk," Coughlin told The Sun.

Pushia, 32, and a second man, James Omar Clea, 31, have been arrested in a scheme to kill Lemuel Wallace, a blind and mentally disabled man who lived in a Pikesville
group home run by the Arc of Baltimore, where Pushia was employed for four months.

Wallace's body was found Feb. 4 in Baltimore's Leakin Park. He had been shot, police said.

Charging documents say that Pushia, who once led a small East Baltimore church, confessed to taking out multiple life insurance policies on Wallace and paying $50,000 in church funds to have him killed.Clea, who lives in the Baltimore area, was arrested Saturday at a South Carolina hotel while attending a religious conference.

Pushia told detectives that Clea put him in touch with an unidentified hit man, according to a warrant for Clea's arrest filed by Baltimore police.

Clea, however, told officers that Pushia had said only that he wanted to hire someone to beat a person up to intimidate him, and that Clea facilitated that meeting, police said.

Clea, who is on probation for assisting in the May 2007 armed robbery of a Wendy's restaurant where he was a manager, was being held in Orangeburg, S.C., pending an extradition hearing.

Pushia did not make a scheduled appearance at a bail review hearing in District Court on Monday because of an undisclosed medical problem. Defense attorney Russell Neverdon said he did not know what medical issue prevented Pushia from appearing.

On Saturday, Neverdon said he visited with Pushia and found him despondent, withdrawn and depressed. He reasserted his client's contention that a murderer remains at large.

"As far as [Pushia] being the mastermind, that's yet to be determined," Neverdon said.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources confirmed April 27 that Pushia has served as a foster parent in the state, working through a private agency.

Nancy Lineman, the spokeswoman, said two children were removed from his care in recent weeks, before his arrest.

Pushia, who signed his checks "Dr. Kevin Pushia," also owned several properties, court records show. He also bought a new townhouse in the city's Frankford neighborhood which is titled to his now-defunct church.

Coughlin, of Richcroft, said Pushia was an "unremarkable" employee who had not displayed any serious problems at work.

"He was considered soft-spoken, quiet," Coughlin said. "He worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. [shift]; we didn't see him very often. He worked with the same group of guys for all 13 years."