- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County detectives have made an arrest in the July homicide of a man found shot to death in the trunk of a torched car near Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Bruce Matthew Lyles Jr., 27, of Waldorf has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, use of a firearm in commission of a violent crime, assault and arson. He was served an arrest warrant Thursday in the Charles County jail, where he currently is being held on an unrelated charge.
Officers found the body of Michael Eugene Milstead Jr., 32, around 11:34 a.m. July 15 after a passerby reported finding a car that appeared to have been set on fire parked in the woods near the stadium, according to charging papers.
Police arrived on the scene to find a blue 2009 Chevrolet Malibu parked about 100 yards off the 5500 block of Piney Church Road, near its intersection with St. Linus Drive.
Police saw blood spattered on the car and dripping from the top edge of the rear bumper, the papers state.
Unable to see into the car due to a heavy layer of soot that had covered the inside of its windows, the officers opened the driver’s side door, which was left unlocked, releasing a cloud of smoke, court records state.
The car’s interior smelled like gasoline, and the front seats and headliner appeared to have been burned in a fire that went out on its own, the records state.
A red, plastic gas can and blood-stained items were found on the front passenger seat and floorboard, according to court documents.
Officers opened the trunk and found Milstead’s body dressed in blood-stained clothes, the documents state.
Milstead, who was alternating stays in residences in Waldorf and Oxon Hill, appeared to have a single gunshot wound behind his left ear and several abrasions on his lower back, court papers state.
Milstead’s body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, where an autopsy determined he had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the head.
Later that day, investigators spoke to Milstead’s girlfriend, the registered owner of the Malibu, who said that a friend had called her around 1 a.m. about Milstead and three other men getting into a fight with Lyles and another man at Allen’s Acres, a Hughesville bar, the papers state.
The friend warned that Lyles had been seen after the fight driving around Milstead’s Waldorf residence, along with the homes of the other men involved in the fight, the records state.
The girlfriend told detectives that she picked up Milstead and took him to work with her. She let him borrow the Malibu around 10:50 a.m. — 44 minutes before officers found the burned-and-blood-soaked car — while she stayed at work, the documents state.
The girlfriend said she received a call from Milstead’s cellphone around 11:11 a.m. — 23 minutes before the car was found — but she was busy at work and unable to answer. She tried to return the call around noon, but no one picked up, the papers state.
Investigators next spoke to each of the men involved in the fight with Milstead, including his brother, who said he last spoke to Milstead around 10:50 a.m. July 15. Milstead told his brother he was driving his girlfriend’s car to Brice Chapel Road — a private driveway in Waldorf leading to several trailer homes regularly occupied by Lyles and his family — in search of Lyles so that the two could “quash their dispute,” the papers state.
Detectives obtained warrants July 19 to take DNA samples, photographs and fingerprints of Lyles and search his car.
Lyles drove to the Charles County Sheriff’s Office’s Waldorf substation the next day, where investigators noted that he had injuries to his left eye and right hand. Lyles said he had been “jumped” the night of July 14 at Allen’s Acres but refused to say by whom, according to court records.
Detectives asked to question Lyles regarding Milstead’s death, but he declined to be interviewed, the papers state.
DNA swabs were taken from Lyles and sent to the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division to be compared to evidence collected in the investigation.
On July 24, detectives searched two homes on Brice Chapel Road and found several rounds of ammunition and one spent cartridge casing, which matched characteristics of the bullet removed from Milstead during his autopsy, the documents state.
On Aug. 3, detectives searched Lyles’s home on Heathcote Road and again asked to question him about Milstead’s death. Lyles told the detectives, “I don’t know nothing about nothing. I don’t know the last time I saw Michael Milstead,” according to the documents.
Investigators received a lab report from the state police forensics division Dec. 4 confirming that DNA from Milstead and Lyles matched the items found inside the Malibu, the papers state. Several of the items also were found to have been soaked in gasoline.
Phone records indicated that Milstead’s cellphone had placed its last call to his girlfriend’s cell phone at 11:11 a.m. July 15 from within the vicinity of La Plata Road, near Brice Chapel Road, according to charging documents.
Detective Christopher Shankster is continuing the investigation.