Two men pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing March 1 after being charged in the February kidnapping of a Monroeville woman and demanding $50,000 and four pounds of marijuana from her son.
All charges against Justice J. McCallum, 24, of Penn Hills and Derrick D. Duke, 25, of Swissvale were upheld by District Judge Jeffrey Herbst in Monroeville.
The suspects are scheduled for a formal arraignment April 17 at Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
McCallum and Duke were arrested Feb. 12 after leading police and FBI officers on a short chase through Pittsburgh that ended when their vehicle crashed into a city Department of Public Works truck.
The suspects are believed to be two out of at least five allegedly involved in the kidnapping of a Monroeville woman Feb. 11. Police continue to search for more suspects.
According to the criminal complaint, the woman saw several shapes in the tree line by her Shaw Avenue house when she got home that evening. She called her son, David Quick — who was in the Shaw Avenue house — and told him to call police.
Quick, 24, testified as a witness during the preliminary hearing. He said after his girlfriend called Monroeville police, he got a call from his mother’s cell phone. “(The kidnappers) said my mom was kidnapped and to drop the money off on Kelly Street on top of a trash can,” Quick testified.
He said the ransom amounts changed from $40,000 to $50,000 with four pounds of marijuana and two guns. They eventually agreed on $11,000 in cash as ransom for his mother.
The criminal complaint said Quick left Shaw Avenue to drop off the money as detectives worked to set up surveillance of the property on Kelly Street. Officers raced ahead of him to try to locate the alleged kidnappers once the ransom was delivered.
When Quick delivered the cash, McCallum and Duke — who arrived in a blue Ford Escape, police said — picked up the cash and a chase started. During the chase, police said Duke jumped out of the vehicle and was arrested shortly after.
McCallum, the alleged driver, led police on the chase that ended when he crashed into a city Department of Public Works truck. He ran from the crash and was apprehended when he got caught in a fence on the 200 block of Polk Way.
Meanwhile, the mother escaped an abandoned house on Kelly Street by untying her feet and hopping outside to a neighboring house, pleading for help, according to the complaint.
Officers received a call from a person on Ladson Street around 2:30 a.m. saying there was a woman tied to a chair on the porch. A Monoreville detective who testified Friday said the woman was found with her feet still tied and bruises on her wrists and face.
Duke is charged with kidnapping, robbery of a motor vehicle, criminal conspiracy, simple assault, theft by extortion, recklessly endangering another person and unlawful restraint.
McCallum faces the same charges but will also face fleeing or attempting to elude police officers and reckless driving.
Robert Mielnicki, McCallum’s attorney, said he doesn’t believe prosecutors presented enough evidence to charge his client with robbery of a motor vehicle and simple assault.
He also thought Quick’s involvement with the case was strange. “If you got a call from a random person in the evening hours asking for $11,000, would you be able to come up with the cash? Wouldn’t that be a little strange?” Mielnicki said. “I mean, why are they asking you for that?”
Tamara Vara, McCallum’s cousin, said there are a lot of holes in the prosecutor’s case against him.
This woman said there are "a lot of holes" in the prosecutor's case against her cousin, Justice McCallum. He was charged, along with Derrick Duke, in connection to a kidnapping in Monroeville Feb. 11. Story on @TribLIVE soon. pic.twitter.com/cgQEMBmbHt
— Dillon Garrett Carr (@dillonswriting) March 1, 2019
“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” she said after the hearing. When asked about what holes she thought were in the case, she declined to specify. “They had errors, a lot of errors… Just lies, basically,” Vara said.