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Man is charged in slaying of cabdriver

Ramir Steve was arraigned in the shooting of Gregory Cunningham.

Upper Darby police yesterday charged a 19-year-old man with the murder of a cab driver on the day before Christmas, and said he boasted of the killing over the taxi's radio.

Ramir Steve was arraigned yesterday morning in the shooting of Gregory Cunningham, 42, of Clifton Heights. He was held without bail on homicide, gun and robbery charges, and his preliminary hearing was scheduled for Friday.

Police believe that the shooting, about 3 a.m. Monday, was the result of a botched robbery attempt, and that Steve fled taking only the cab driver's cell phone. The driver was found with $700 in his pocket.

"We believe it was a robbery, but apparently the cab driver resisted," said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood. "After he shot him, he panicked and he ran."

Steve admitted shooting the driver in a written statement to police, according to the arrest affidavit. He also told police that he then drove the cab to an area near his residence and "got rid of it."

Chitwood said Steve brashly used the cab driver's two-way radio after the killing to report that Cunningham would not be showing up for his next assignment.

"He gets on the air and says, 'He ain't going to make it to Terrace because I shot him, and he's dead,' " Chitwood said.

"The community members cooperated with us. That's how we got to the location. It wasn't one of those where nobody came forward," Chitwood said.

Chitwood said Steve's twin brother, Romar, also provided information that helped in the arrest. Police had searched a half-dozen homes in West and Southwest Philadelphia on Thursday before finding Ramir Steve on the 200 block of South 56th Street, where an acquaintance was in the home.

The suspect had Philadelphia and Upper Darby addresses. County Cab, Cunningham's employer, had dispatched Cunningham to the Upper Darby block where Steve lived, the 7400 block of Rogers Avenue, before the shooting.

Police said Ramir Steve has a juvenile record dating back to when he was 12, including a juvenile burglary conviction, and one arrest as an adult. According to court records, Ramir Steve was arraigned on Dec. 18 in Philadelphia on theft and related offenses.

Cunningham's body was found about 6 a.m. on Monday in a walkway between Buildings E and F of the Park Lane East Apartments in Upper Darby.

His empty cab, a white Ford Crown Victoria, was found earlier, at 3:21, at Keystone and Sellers Avenues.

Ramir Steve was "contacted" by police and advised to come to the police department for questioning, according to the affidavit. Ramir Steve said he would, but did not show up.

Romar Steve told police that on the morning of the killing, his brother told him that "he messed up and killed someone." Romar Steve also provided police with clothes worn by his brother when the murder was committed, according to the affidavit.

The gun that police believe was used by Ramir Steve was found in the engine compartment of a vehicle driven by Romar Steve, police said.

When police went to the Philadelphia address on Thursday to arrest Ramir Steve, the female homeowner yelled, "He's in there. Get him out," according to the affidavit. Ramir Steve had just arrived at that address that morning, Chitwood said.

Romar Steve was charged with receiving stolen property, Chitwood said.

The arrest, while welcomed, did nothing to ease the heartache Cunningham's killing has caused Karen Cardone.

The 39-year-old Broomall resident said she last saw Cunningham two days before he was killed, when she stopped by to let him know that "I broke up with a boyfriend who was not good for me. He was happy."

Cardone has known Cunningham for eight years, having met him when he was a cook at P.J. Henry's Draft House in Ardmore. Divorced and father to a young daughter with whom he had lost contact, Cunningham "was very much a loner," Cardone said.

Part of the reason he quit the restaurant job two years ago to drive a cab was because "he could make his own hours and be by himself," she said.

At 6 feet tall with a heavy frame, Cunningham had an imposing build but "would never harm anybody, ever," Cardone said. That makes the thought of someone's killing him so much more difficult to understand, she said.

"He's a good, good person," Cardone said. "He'll be missed."