Suspect in beating was hired online
By Christine Byers
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
CLAYTON — Rashad El, charged in the near-fatal beating of a couple in south St. Louis County, had been employed to work around their home before returning twice to burglarize and rob them, officials said Tuesday.
Police continued to look for an accomplice while the victims remained hospitalized in what St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said was "very serious critical condition." He added, "It's as serious as it can be."
Brad Schien, who operates a tree-trimming business, had posted an online ad on Craigslist about six week ago, looking for laborers, officials said. El responded and began doing odd jobs for Schien around the home he shares with his girlfriend, Darlene Hopkins, in the 5400 block of Medalton Way.
"The victim may have been apprenticing him," said St. Louis County police Detective Robert Vogel.
But El wasn't reliable enough to suit Schien, who stopped calling him for work, McCulloch explained.
Police were already looking for El as a suspect in the theft of landscaping equipment on May 10 from the home's garage when El returned Friday and beat the couple with a metal object, officials said. That afternoon, Hopkins, barely conscious, managed to crawl to a neighbor's house for help.
"(El) had to have known they were home," said county Police Chief Tim Fitch. He noted, "The male victim in this case has the worst head injuries I've ever seen on a living victim."
Neighbors said they had seen a large man staring at Schien's house Thursday night, but no one called police about it. El is 6-foot-5 and weighs 250 pounds.
A complaint filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court says El admitted the attack.
Fitch said investigators were still looking for at least one accomplice but provided no description. Two people were questioned and released Monday.
Hopkins' car had been stolen, along with her cell phone and credit cards. Schien's wallet, credit cards, cell phone and a laptop computer also were missing. Police said the couple are in their 40s.
St. Louis police arrested El on Monday afternoon after responding to a disturbance call at an address where county police had been looking for him. Officers recovered Hopkins' car in East St. Louis.
El, who turned 24 the day after the crime, is being held in lieu of $2.5 million bail on 13 charges, including first-degree assault, armed criminal action, felonious restraint, burglary and robbery. He lives in the 2100 block of East Alice Avenue in St. Louis.
"The bond speaks for itself," Fitch said. "I think the judge and the prosecutor recognize how heinous this was."
Fitch said Schien has not regained consciousness
but that Hopkins has been awake several times.
McCulloch credited police for making a quick arrest, and the neighborhood for helping with the investigation. "But the job isn't finished yet until everyone responsible for this is off the street," he said. "We've still got a lot of work to do."
A community meeting of police and residents is planned for 6 p.m. today at Mary Mother of the Church, 5901 Kerth Road.
Donna Martin, 74, said that when Hopkins came to her home for help, she said that Schien, her fiancé, recently fired El because he didn't have a car and was routinely late for work. Martin said Hopkins had to leave home to seek help because the house had no land-line phone and their cell phones were taken.
Martin said she had a security system installed in her own home on Tuesday.
"It's comforting that they caught him, but I was worried that they may come back after us, so that's the reason for the security system," she said. "It's frightening, you know? It really brings it home that no matter where you are, you're not always safe. There are bad people out there everywhere. There are crazy people out there
Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.