Two Quincy residents are behind bars for their alleged roles in the kidnapping and murder of a Havana man whose body was found this past week in Gadsden County.
Authorities have charged Christopher Rumph, 38, and Calandra Cooper, 32, with premeditated homicide and kidnapping. Police say Rumph and Cooper, as well as a third yet-unidentified suspect, are responsible for the death of 27-year-old Havana resident Kelton Washington, allegedly kidnapped from a Tallahassee motel in the early morning hours of December 10, then shot and killed in Gadsden County, according to arrest documents.
A joint investigation of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and Tallahassee Police Department led to the recovery of Washington’s body this past Thursday, near the intersection of Strickland and Ben Bostic roads.
Authorities began investigating Washington’s whereabouts December 12, when concerned family members reported him missing to the Tallahassee Police Department, the lead investigating agency in this case.
Around 9 a.m., December 12, Tallahassee Police met with Washington’s family at the Budget Inn on West Tennessee Street in Tallahassee. The family told police they hadn’t seen nor heard from Washington since December 9, so they drove to the Budget Inn – where Washington was believed to have recently rented a room – hoping to find him.
After failing to locate him at the motel, family members reported Washington missing. The ensuing investigation led authorities to Washington’s body, and to suspects Rumph and Cooper – both arrested this past Friday. As of press time this past Tuesday, police were still seeking a third unidentified suspect believed to be involved in the alleged kidnapping and murder.
The case stems from a longstanding dispute between Washington and one of his alleged captors, and began with a drug deal in the wee hours of December 10, Cooper told investigators.
On the night of December 9, Cooper allegedly stole an acquaintance’s vehicle from outside a Quincy nightclub, investigators report.
The acquaintance found his car the next day at the Arbor Crest apartment complex in Quincy, where Rumph and Cooper live together, Cooper told police in an interview later that week. Cooper added she and Rumph are in a “casual relationship.”
Police searched the stolen vehicle, finding a bloodstain on one of the seats, as well as jewelry reportedly belonging to Washington and a checkbook bearing the name of one of Rumph’s relatives, according to a police report.
When investigators confronted her with damning evidence in an interview following the incidient, Cooper eventually admitted to stealing the car and chronicled the December 10 kidnapping and murder for police, according to court documents.
Cooper told investigators she picked up Rumph and the third suspect in the stolen car just before 4 a.m., December 10. The trio then traveled to a Tallahassee gas station to meet Washington for a drug deal, arrest documents state.
Upon arrival, Cooper got into a different vehicle driven by Washington, and the two went to the Budget Inn, where Washington had a room. Rumph and the third suspect showed up at the motel several hours later, Cooper told investigators and motel surveillance footage reportedly confirms.
Rumph reportedly told Cooper he wanted to buy drugs from Washington, so Cooper let Rumph and the third suspect into Washington’s room with her key card, Cooper told investigators. Again, motel surveillance video appears to confirm Cooper’s statement, according to court documents.
After opening the motel door, Cooper can be seen in the surveillance video “running away” from Washington’s door toward the parking lot, the documents state. Cooper told investigators she was “unaware” of what Rumph and the third suspect planned to do once inside Washington’s room but confessed to witnessing the two men forcibly extract Washington from the room and force him into the stolen car. Motel surveillance footage shows Washington being dragged from his motel room by two men identified by witnesses as Rumph and the third suspect, according to court documents.
After the third suspect “subdued” Washington, the captors allegedly took Washington’s jewelry and other valuables, Cooper told police. She maintained the incident was not a robbery by design, however, and, instead, stemmed from a longstanding feud between Washington and the third suspect.
With Washington in tow and Rumph driving the stolen car, the suspects left the motel and traveled toward Gadsden County. Along the way, Washington “begged for his life,” Cooper told investigators.
After parking the car in a wooded area near Strickland Road, Rumph and the third suspect pulled Washington from the vehicle, Cooper recalled in the police report. Cooper said she could hear Washington “screaming” and pleading with his captors to spare his life, as the two men dragged him toward a nearby woodline, the report continues.
The shouting continued for “several minutes,” Cooper told police, until it was interrupted by the sound of “multiple gunshots,” then silence. Cooper denied seeing a firearm that morning, but told police Rumph carried a gun on his person “constantly.”
Rumph and the third suspect returned to the car without Washington, and once inside the vehicle, the two men threatened to kill Cooper if she ever spoke about the incident, court documents state.
When Tallahassee Police interviewed Rumph later, he initially denied involvement or knowledge of the alleged kidnapping, robbery and murder, according to court documents. When confronted with damning evidence, however, he recounted a series of events that contrasted substantially with Cooper’s narrative.
According to arrest documents, Rumph eventually fingered Cooper perpetrator, telling police Cooper had told him she “committed a robbery and a murder” and named two accomplices.
Investigators were unable to substantiate Rumph’s claims and confirmed the named “accomplices” were not involved.
Cooper and Rumph had first appearances in court this past week.
By Brian Dekle
Photos courtesy Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and Leon County Detention Center