Police: Somerset apartment employee gave keys to murder suspect

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 5, 2016




An employee of the Somerset Apartments, William Vernell Jones, 42, of Pontiac, was charged with first-degree felony home invasion in connection with the stabbing death of Kalpana Murali-Babu, a wife and mother of children ages 10 and 7.

Police responded to a call of an unresponsive woman March 21 and testified in court April 20 that the door to the apartment was locked and had to be kicked in, and there was no damage to the door before police forced it open. Police found Murali-Babu in a child’s bedroom.

Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr. ​Ljubisa J. Dragovic said Murali-Babu died of sharp force trauma to the neck from a single sharp-edged object that caused excessive blood loss.

Visiting Judge Dennis Drury bound over Murali-Babu’s neighbor, Charles Stephens, 53, on felony murder charges in 52-4 District Court April 20 after hearing testimony from Dragovic, police, a pawn shop employee, Murali-Babu’s husband and the suspect’s wife, Tonia Stephens.

Police arrested Charles Stephens at a home in Detroit March 22 and found in his coat pocket a set of keys with Tweetie Bird on them, women’s earrings, a wristwatch, $160, and a card from American Jewelry and Loan.

Tonia Stephens, Charles Stephens’ wife, testified April 20 that she was in bed when he left the apartment they shared with his mother the morning of March 21. She said he returned “out of breath” and said “(Expletive) just got real. I just killed two people.”

She said he pulled a big knife out of his jacket, tossed it on the bed and told her to take it and clean it with bleach. She said he also put a game system on their bed.

Police said that when they found Murali-Babu, she was not wearing the tahring necklace and pendants that signify marriage in the Tamilian culture — those items are traditionally never removed. Police said a Playstation, a wristwatch, house keys and earrings also were missing.

An employee at American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit testified that Charles Stephens was a regular customer and that he went into the store March 21 with a 22-karat necklace with two charms.

The employee said he wanted $1,500 for the necklace and sold it for $1,250. In order to complete the transaction, he had to give a thumbprint and provide identification.

Stephens was arraigned in Oakland County Circuit Court April 27. His pretrial is set for June 8. His bond was denied.

Troy Police Sgt. Meghan Lehman said that during the homicide investigation, Troy police discovered Jones gave Stephens keys for the apartments.

Troy police Capt. Robert Redmond said police believe Stephens used the keys to steal items from apartments.

“It appears the key was for a lock on the doorknob and not the deadbolt,” Lehman said.

Jones was arraigned in 52-4 District Court May 4. He appeared without an attorney and requested a court-appointed attorney. The attorney had not been appointed as of press time.

Jones’ bond was set at $250,000 cash/surety and he remained in custody in the Oakland County Jail.

Jones’ conference was set for May 12, and his preliminary exam was scheduled for May 19 in 52-4 District Court.

Troy police said charges against Jones were the result of the persistence of Troy police investigators, the Oakland County Major Case Assistance Team and the Oakland County FBI Gang and Violent Crimes Task Force.