An avowed fan of the TV crime show "CSI," Ramir Andre Steve was a practiced thug who knew to wear gloves so he wouldn't leave fingerprints and to ditch his weapon, clothes and other evidence that could later implicate him, police said.
But such premeditated cunning couldn't compensate for his stunning stupidity, police said.
The 19-year-old Upper Darby man allegedly made several bumbling errors that led police to zero in on him quickly in their search for the cold-blooded killer who gunned down a cabbie in Upper Darby on Christmas Eve.
His first mistake came before he met his victim, Gregory Cunningham. He called County Cab and had them dispatch a driver to his own neighborhood, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said yesterday.
Ramir Steve and his twin brother, Romar, "immediately became persons of interest when we saw where the call originated. There are some real bad guys in that area," Chitwood said. "This guy [Ramir Steve] had police contact since he was 12 years old."
And though Ramir Steve went to considerable lengths to hide some evidence, he left plenty behind that will ensure "a slam-dunk case" against him, Chitwood said.
For example, he stole Cunningham's cell phone, which police found hidden in the engine compartment of a car Romar was known to use, Chitwood said. He also allegedly blabbed to Romar that he had "messed up and killed someone," a confession Romar then shared with police, according to the affidavit against Ramir Steve.
Romar also provided police with clothing Ramir had worn during the murder, according to the affidavit.
After an intense investigation that had officers closing in on him as Ramir Steve desperately pingponged to six or seven locations in Philadelphia and Upper Darby Thursday, police nabbed the suspected killer in a home on 56th Street near Locust in West Philadelphia. Chitwood wasn't sure yesterday whether or how Steve knew the residents there.
Magisterial District Judge Christopher Mattox yesterday ordered Ramir Steve held without bail on charges of murder, robbery and related offenses.
After his morning arraignment, Ramir Steve, wearing a black hoodie, stared blankly at reporters as he was led out of court to a prison-bound van, which he ducked inside of without comment. He faces a preliminary hearing on Jan. 4.
Romar Steve was held on $100,000 bail on charges including possessing instruments of crime.
The saga started shortly before 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, when Ramir Steve allegedly called Company Cab with the intention of robbing a driver, Chitwood said. He did not personally know Cunningham, the driver dispatched.
He asked Cunningham to take him to the Park Lane East Apartments complex on Beverly Boulevard near Sherbrook. Once there, he lured Cunningham out of his cab by pretending he didn't have cash to pay his fare, Chitwood said.
Cunningham agreed to accompany Steve to an apartment to get his payment and climbed out of his taxi, where Steve shot him once behind his left ear, Chitwood said.
Perhaps panicking after the murder, Steve fled in Cunningham's cab, leaving behind the $700 that packed the hack's pockets, Chitwood said.
Police learned of the murder when a distraught Company Cab dispatcher called 911 just after 3 a.m.
"They were trying to dispatch [Cunningham] to go to another location on Terrace Avenue," Chitwood said.
But a stranger's voice came over the cabbie's radio, announcing: " 'He ain't gonna make it to Terrace, because I shot him and he's dead,' " Chitwood recounted.
"That's the coldblooded callousness of this," Chitwood said.
Police set out to locate Cunningham and found his body lying facedown about 6 a.m. near the Park Lane East Apartments. Cunningham, who had a 12-year-old daughter but lived alone in Clifton Heights, was declared dead at the scene. His ransacked cab was found about four or five blocks from the murder scene.
He had worked for County Cab about two years and was described as a good employee, said Capt. Michael Kenny, head of Upper Darby's investigations division.
After his capture, Ramir Steve confessed his role in Cunningham's slaying to police and even admitted he returned to survey the crime scene before the body was found, Chitwood said.
Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver believed to be the murder weapon and are tracing its ownership, Chitwood said. A stolen .45-caliber handgun also was recovered, and police found black cotton gloves and other clothing Ramir Steve allegedly wore during the murder discarded in the Cobbs Creek area, Chitwood said.
Steve's criminal history includes mostly juvenile arrests for violations such as burglary and arson, police said.
But Philadelphia authorities coincidentally issued a bench warrant on Christmas Eve for Ramir Steve's arrest on theft, forgery and such offenses stemming from an unrelated Dec. 18 arrest, according to court records.
Cunningham's death was Upper Darby's fifth homicide in 2007. *