The family of the man found shot to death in his Silver Spring apartment just over a year ago expressed relief after a Montgomery County District Court judge ordered that Katrina Ben, the woman charged with the crime, be held without bail.
Police found Eric Somuah, 34, shot to death in his bed in June of last year, prosecutors said in Ben’s bail review.
“I’m so glad they didn’t let that woman out,” said Somuah’s sister, Cynthia Zegeye. “I was sweating, wondering, ‘Are they going to let this woman out?’” she said.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys presented dueling portraits of the woman accused of the slaying.
Arnold D. Bruckner, Ben’s attorney, said the woman was a hard-working oncology nurse who had graduated from the University of Mississippi and worked at the National Institutes of Health. An official at the university confirmed that Ben graduated from the school in May 2003.
He argued that she had cooperated with police fully since the investigation began last year, and did not have a criminal history.
“She wants to cooperate,” he said, asking Judge Barry A. Hamilton to grant Ben bail.
A website set up to help Ben and her family, called Ben, or “Trina,” “a loving and loyal daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.”
“Trina and supporters of Trina stand together in believing that whoever did this crime should be brought to justice. However, wrongfully accusing someone of this horrific crime is not the answer,” an appeal on the website said.
But Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Crawford said keeping Ben behind bars was a “public safety issue in the extreme,” and that Ben had no ties to keep her in Montgomery County and she had lied to investigators.
“Ben was asked if she owned a gun, and the answer was ‘no,’” she told Hamilton, asking Ben be denied bail. She said investigators still do not have a motive in the shooting.
Police found Somuah in his apartment on East-West Highway with the doors locked and no signs of forced entry, court records show. He had been shot while he was sleeping, prosecutors said.
In initial interviews, Ben, Somuah’s neighbor, told police she had been with him the day he died and that the two had been in a romantic relationship.
Detective Dimitry Ruvin wrote in Ben’s arresting documents that she denied any involvement in the crime or that she owned any firearms.
But police eventually linked a handgun found on the side of the road on I-495 with the bullet that medical examiners removed from Somuah’s body.
After sifting through records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and from pawnshops in Mississippi, investigators discovered that Ben had bought the gun, a Lorcin L380, from a pawnshop in Columbia, Miss., in 2004, according to prosecutors and court records. Zegeye said that when she and her family members learned that there had been an alleged relationship between Ben and Somuah, they were confused.
Somuah worked at a Montgomery County Land Rover dealership, and was a devout family man who had stepped in to help her raise her children after her husband died of pancreatic cancer, Zegeye said.
Somuah, who was also working on opening a nursing referral company, had never told family members about Ben, she said.
“We don’t know anything about her,” Zegeye said.