- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2013

Authorities have charged a 20-year-old Maryland man in the fatal shooting last year of an 18-year-old high school student.

After alluding last week to a pending arrest in the case, Prince George’s County police announced Monday that Travon Bennett, who has been in jail since November when he was arrested in an unrelated robbery, is being charged in the death of Marckel Ross, one of six county school students slain this school year.

Ross, 18, was fatally shot as he walked to Central High School on the morning of Sept. 11 in an apparent robbery attempt.

Mr. Bennett, of Bryans Road in Charles County, also faces charges of attempted first-degree murder from a robbery in May as well as two robberies in September and October. The three other robberies occurred in the Capitol Heights neighborhood where Ross was killed, and the gun used to kill Ross was linked through ballistics to at least one of the other cases, officials said.

“Our ultimate goal is to find answers, and today we have that,” Prince George’s County police Chief Mark A. Magaw said. “The message here is no matter how long it takes us, we will find you. We will bring you to justice and we will hold you accountable for your senseless choices.”

Though two other men also face charges in earlier robberies that Mr. Bennett is accused of, investigators believe he acted alone in Ross‘ shooting and that he targeted Ross for a robbery but shot him during a “confrontation.”

“We believe Travon Bennett acted alone and was alone,” said Maj. Michael Straughan, commander of the Criminal Investigation Division.

An attorney listed as representing Mr. Bennett in his other robbery cases could not be reached for comment Monday.

Police arrested Mr. Bennett immediately after the Oct. 31 robbery, which occurred in the 5400 block of Abdul Street in Capitol Heights — a few blocks from where Ross was gunned down, according to Maryland court records. In that incident, a man was robbed at gunpoint for two boxes of Salem 100 cigarettes and a pack of Newport 100 cigarettes.

Officers canvassing the area after the robbery stopped Mr. Bennett outside a home and found the stolen cigarettes in his possession, court records state. Police later searched the home where Mr. Bennett was hanging out and recovered a black pellet pistol and a .38 caliber Colt revolver — later determined to be the gun used to kill Ross.

Investigators had the murder weapon in their possession for months but referred to it as a “community gun” that several people passed around for use in robberies. In order to confirm that Mr. Bennett was the shooter, police and prosecutors sought information from witnesses, including a co-defendant in one of the other robbery cases, prosecutors said.

The rest of the robberies are still being prosecuted, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said Monday that those who cooperated could be offered plea deals or have charges dropped, though no decision has been made.

“We will consider that in their sentences,” she said.

Ballistic evidence from the Colt revolver also linked Mr. Bennett to a May 31 robbery when a man was shot.

After developing leads from the Oct. 31 robbery, police said one of two victims of a Sept. 9 robbery — in which $500 cash and a pair of green Nike sneakers were stolen — was able to identify his attackers, including Mr. Bennett.

While an arrest brought closure to the case for county police, Ross‘ mother said before the announcement that she is still grieving.

“Nothing can bring my son back, but I guess it would bring me a little relief,” Elizabeth Ross said of news that an arrest had been made in her son’s slaying. “Justice has to be served one way or the other.”

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