'Good Samaritan' helps track down murder suspecton April 5, 2012 @ 3:44 pm (Updated: 9:29 am - 4/6/12 )
Richard Abker had pulled into the parking lot between Jack in the Box and Krispy Kreme on Aurora Avenue.
"I heard screaming, so I kept driving. I couldn't see where the screams were coming from, but I followed until I could get close to them and then I turned around and I saw a man holding his hand up in the air, waving it and screaming," said Abker.
When he rolled his window down he could see blood on the man, and he asked what was wrong. The man said he'd been stabbed.
"He pointed and says 'Don't let her get away. Stop her! Stop her!' Something like that. So, my motor's still going and I did everything I could to keep eyes on her, down going south on Highway 99," said Abker.
He drove quite a ways, doubling back when traffic forced him to pass the woman. All the while, Abker said he was taking in every detail. He wanted to make sure he could identify her to police and, hopefully, tell them exactly where she had gone.
Abker followed her down SR-99 to a hotel where cops would eventually catch up with 23-year-old Karen Latham. Abker would later learn the victim, Zerabruk Habtemiriam, 54, did not survive the attack.
"I could tell by the way he was looking at me and screaming and trying to get his words out that he was in bad shape. I knew that. How bad, of course, I didn't know. I learned later that day that he had passed away, and I felt bad, very bad, that I wasn't able to do more," Abker said.
Habtemiriam was also just trying to do good. Police said he had given Karen Latham a ride and offered her some money for food. Latham didn't think the $5 he offered was enough and according to police, that's why she stabbed him.
"I couldn't even image anybody cold killing like that. I just can't imagine somebody knifing somebody. To me, it sounds like the person who did it just doesn't have a conscience," said Abker.
Even though the victim did not survive the attack, police told Abker he did all he could.
"There were two officers and a detective that told me that. They said, you know, you're going to be in shock, you're not going to be yourself for a few days. Treat yourself good because you actually did a great thing," Abker recalled.
Latham was charged with second degree murder on Thursday. King County prosecutors are asking for $1 million bail citing Latham as an extreme threat to the community. The potential sentence for the charge, murder with a deadly weapon, is 12 to 20 years in prison.
Abker said he has gained new respect for local police. Thanks to his accurate description, it took them just minutes to catch up with their suspect. Abker said he encourages others to do the same if they ever find themselves in similar, terrible situation.
97.3 KIRO FM's Kim Shepard and Ursula Reutin contributed to this report.
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