Bail set at $800,000 for slaying suspects
Men allegedly left victim in scalding bath water
By Janice Gregorson
Murder and assault charges have been filed against two men accused of hitting another man on the head with a liquor bottle, then leaving him naked in a bathtub filled with scalding water.
Jim Martinson, chief deputy with the Olmsted County attorney’s office, said Gale Juma Tom Wani, 44, died March 23 of blunt force trauma to the head.
On Tuesday, Lenard Ace Saunders, 21, and Michael Anthony Gray, 25, were arraigned in Olmsted District Court on second-degree murder and first-degree assault charges in connection with the killing. Olmsted District Judge Joseph Wieners set unconditional bail at $800,000 and conditional bail at $400,000 for each man. They return to court April 24.
Martinson told Wieners that Saunders and Gray are accused of aiding each other in assaulting Wani in his apartment at 2323 18th Ave. N.W. early on March 23.
He was found hours later when his girlfriend asked a friend to go to Wani’s apartment and check on him because he didn’t show up for a date. The friend found Wani dead in the bathtub. The girlfriend called 911 from a neighbor’s apartment. Police were sent to the apartment at 6 p.m.
Wani was found on his left side in the bathtub, according to the criminal complaint. Martinson called the water "scalding," but it was unclear whether Wani was put in the tub before or after he died.
In the living room, police saw a broken glass coffee table, indicating that a struggle occurred.
A broken liquor bottle was found in the bathtub. Four or five empty vodka bottles were found in the apartment.
Coroner Dr. Eric Pfeifer said Wani had hematomas on both sides of his head and an acute closed-head injury.
Martinson told the judge Tuesday that Saunders and Gray were arrested at an apartment in Minneapolis on Friday, nearly two weeks after a warrant had been issued for Saunders’ arrest.
He said both men have given multiple addresses, and it is unclear where they really live. He said both are believed to have ties to Chicago. He said Saunders has relatives in Milwaukee and friends in Rochester.
Gray told the judge that he lives in Minneapolis; Saunders said he has a girlfriend in Rochester and used her address.
Martinson said both men have felony convictions and have served time in prison in Illinois.
Investigators focused on a vacant upstairs apartment at Wani’s apartment building to help lead them to Saunders and Gray.
Martinson said several items were taken from Wani’s apartment, including a computer that police found in the vacant apartment.
Information leads to suspects
The criminal complaint said a woman who was being evicted from that apartment contacted police in the days after the killing. Her information helped lead authorities to the suspects.
The complaint said she still had a key to the apartment. She said that she knew a man with the nickname "L," that he recently returned to Rochester from Chicago and needed a place to stay and that she gave him a key to the apartment.
About 4 a.m. on March 23, she said, she went to the apartment knowing "L" was in town and thinking he might be partying at the apartment. When she entered, she said, there were about 10 people inside. She said "L" was there with another man she knew as "Mo." She heard the two talking about beating up a person in the apartment building and said "L" showed her his knuckles, which were red and swollen. She said he told her it was because of the assault on the man who lived downstairs. She said she saw "L" carry a computer into the apartment. The computer was later identified as Wani’s.
She told investigators that she saw "Mo" coming out of the bathroom after showering. She heard he took a shower because Wani urinated on him while being assaulted.
The woman told police she left the apartment because she was scared about what they had done.
Authorities connect the dots
Police executed a search warrant at the vacant apartment on March 26 and seized the computer. They found a brown wooden necklace with a cross in a dumpster outside the complex. Several empty Hennessy cognac bottles were found in the vacant apartment. The complaint said a Hennessy bottle was used in the assault on Wani and was found in the bathtub.
The woman who had rented the apartment said a friend of hers had a photograph of "L," which was e-mailed to investigators. An Illinois state identification of Lenard Saunders obtained by investigators matched the man in the picture identified as "L."
Police interviewed other people at the party the night of the assault. One person said he heard people talking about how they "beat somebody’s ass." He also said he noticed items of jewelry he hadn’t seen before in the apartment. He saw a brown beaded cross necklace in the garbage. The man said that he asked where the items came from and that someone said they came from the apartment downstairs.
The witness told police that "Mo" and "L" left the apartment and returned a short time later. "L" was carrying a computer screen and "Mo" was carrying a computer tower. He said "L" told everybody to look at his right hand and pointed out his swollen knuckles. He said the injuries were from the "dude."