FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 14, 2013
For Information Contact:
Two District Men Plead Guilty to 2011 Murder
Of Retired Vietnam Veteran in Southeast Washington
-Victim, 71, Was Slain in His Apartment After Trying to Protect His Wife-
WASHINGTON- James Brewer, 27, and Stephen Page, 20, of Washington, D.C., have pled guilty to charges of second-degree murder while armed in the 2011 slaying of a 71-year-old man in Southeast Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced today.
Both men entered the guilty pleas on Nov. 13, 2013, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Honorable Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. scheduled sentencing for Jan. 10, 2014.
According to a proffer of facts presented during the plea hearing, on June 27, 2011, at about 9:15 p.m., Brewer, Page, Anthony Thomas, and a fourth man walked into an apartment building in the 2300 block of Good Hope Road SE. They entered the front lobby and gathered at the elevator. Then they took the elevator to the seventh floor.
Minutes later, Brewer, Page and Thomas entered the apartment of Solomon Reese, 71, a Vietnam veteran who supplemented his retirement income by selling cigarettes to neighbors in the area. Mr. Reese was known by many neighbors as the “cigarette man.”
While the men were inside, Mr. Reese’s wife, meanwhile, returned to the apartment from the building’s trash room. Upon hearing scuffling, she began to scream. At that point, Brewer pulled her inside the apartment and threw her toward the front room sofa. Then, as she continued to scream, Thomas placed a blanket over her mouth. Mr. Reese, who initially struggled with Page over a pistol that Page was holding, grabbed Thomas. Page warned him to let go. Then, when Mr. Reese reached into his pocket, Page shot him several times.
Brewer, Page and Thomas left the apartment, taking two bags containing cigarettes and travelers’ checks. Mr. Reese was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. He had been shot multiple times, with bullets hitting him in the chest, abdomen and thigh.
Detectives with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) obtained surveillance video showing Brewer, Page, Thomas, and the fourth man entering the building and getting onto the elevator. Footage from approximately seven minutes later showed Brewer, Page and Thomas moving quickly out of the stairwell on the basement level, with Brewer carrying two bags.
On July 14, 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Brewer in Newport News, Va., and transported him to the District of Columbia for presentment on a charge of first-degree murder while armed. While awaiting presentment in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Brewer switched armbands with another arrestee and pretended to be that person. He then signed release papers under that arrestee’s name and left the courthouse. Marshals discovered the ruse and searched for Brewer, who surrendered the following day.
Thomas, 25, earlier pled guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter while armed and is awaiting sentencing.
In announcing the pleas, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the MPD detectives,
officers, crime scene technicians, and forensic specialists who worked on the case. He also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the U.S. Marshals Service. In addition, he praised those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Alesha Matthews Yette; Litigation Technology Specialists Kimberly Smith, Leif Hickling, and Joshua Ellen; Jelahn Stewart, chief of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, and Victim/Witness staff members Maria Shumar, Marcia Rinker, Michael Hailey, Katina Adams-Washington, M. Laverne Forrest, Tanya Via, and David Foster. Finally, he commended the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Wheeler, and Scott Sroka, who secured the indictment in the case and handled the prosecution which led to the plea.