ST. PETERSBURG — Cabbies worked with chills, peering into their back seats, perking their ears, asking customers to slide to the other side of the car.
It was 2008, and three cabdrivers had been killed in the span of five months. The crimes all went unsolved, sending waves of anxiety through the business.
Now, one of those slayings is a step closer to resolution.
A grand jury has formally accused Louis Tillman, 22, in the death of Yellow Cab driver Linda L. Faison on July 12.
Faison, 39, had picked up Tillman just after 5 a.m. on the west side of St. Petersburg. A short time later, a witness found Faison's body on a one-lane service road at Azalea Middle School. St. Petersburg police investigators said Tillman drove Faison's taxi away from the scene, abandoning it in a parking lot at 7010 Sunset Drive S in South Pasadena.
A Pinellas-Pasco grand jury indicted Tillman on first-degree murder charges Wednesday. Tillman is serving a 10-year sentence for an unrelated robbery in Pinellas County.
Faison's slaying was the second of three cabdriver murders that year in Pinellas. Police have not made arrests in the others.
On May 2, 2008, Blue Star cabdriver Cyril Obinka's car veered out of the Palm View Apartment Complex at 5420 26th St. S and drove into a building. Police thought it was an accident initially — then they saw the blood. Obinka, 43, had moved to the United States from Nigeria. His job as a driver helped him save money and buy a house. His wife had just given birth five months before he died.
Yellow Cab driver Jack LaGrand, 50, was found shot to death in the early morning hours of Sept. 17, 2008, in Clearwater's Cabaret Center strip mall. LaGrand, who was married, leased his cab and contracted with the company. He had an excellent safety record and lived just minutes from the Countryside-area strip mall where his body was discovered.
Amid the string of crimes, some cabdrivers became so nervous they quit. Others were more cautious about who they picked up. Some cab companies raised safety awareness and changed protocol among their staffs.
That July, at least two more cabbies had guns pointed at their heads in St. Petersburg. One driver was shot in the collarbone and throat as he tried to speed away. But he made it out alive.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at (727) 893-8857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.