Saturday, October 2, 2004

Robbery suspect in court

Accused purse-snatcher charged in woman's death

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

NORWOOD - Shannon Benvenuti's cell-phone call sent police on a pursuit that led to the capture of a violent robbery suspect - but only after the suspect's vehicle crashed into a Pleasant Ridge woman's car and killed her.

"I just wanted the police to pick him up so he wouldn't hurt anybody else - and, unfortunately, he did," Benvenuti, 30, of Warren County's Deerfield Township, said Friday.

"I feel horrible that this poor lady got caught up in the middle of this."

The suspect, Christopher Steven Justice, 33, is to appear in court today on an aggravated vehicular-homicide charge, which was filed Friday in the death of Kathy M. Ballard, 48.

Justice also faces other charges in the pursuit and in a string of drive-by purse-snatchings, some targeting elderly victims who were knocked to the ground.

Ballard, who worked at Emerson Electric Fusite Division in Pleasant Ridge, died after Thursday's accident at Section and Ross avenues.

Attempts to interview her co-workers and boyfriend were unsuccessful Friday.

Norwood Police Sgt. Michael Spille said Justice told police he was living out of the truck, which had been reported stolen from Preble County. One Hamilton County court record lists Justice's address as: "No Home USA." Another says he lived in West Virginia.

Justice is being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center. His bond was set Friday at $220,000 on charges of robbery, aggravated robbery, theft and misuse of a credit card. Those charges were filed in connection with purse-snatchings that happened earlier this week in Greater Cincinnati.

Thursday, police said they suspected Justice of stealing another woman's purse in Evanston.

That was shortly before Benvenuti called 911 at 1:27 p.m., about 45 minutes before the crash.



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