COLUMBIA — Help from the public in identifying a suspect in an attempted burglary at Hampton Inn on Clark Lane led to the arrest of a suspect in last weekend’s homicide at another Clark Lane hotel, Capt. Brad Nelson said.
The suspect, Dwight T. Hayes, 21, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action in connection with the killing of Cynthia L. White, 55, early Saturday. He has also been charged in connection with an earlier rape, sodomy and robbery of a clerk at the hotel and the attempted burglary of a room at the Hampton Inn.
White’s slaying was Columbia’s third homicide of the year. The second homicide was also on Clark Lane, in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant.
With hopes of getting an arrest, police released a picture from surveillance camera video last weekend of a man walking down a hallway at the Hampton Inn, 3410 Clark Lane, Nelson said. Police thought the man in the video could be responsible for two robberies at Comfort Inn, including the one in which White was killed early Saturday.
“We quickly realized a lot of similarities in the incidents,” Nelson said. “The locations were all on Clark Lane; the description of the suspect from the (robbery and burglary) victims was similar.”
Within a matter of hours of releasing the photograph to the media, a caller identified the man in the photograph as Hayes, Nelson said.
The identification of Hayes and his previous record for auto theft, for which he was on supervised parole, contributed to probable cause for an arrest, Nelson said.
Hayes was arrested Sunday evening at a relative’s home at 1812 McKee Road and charged on suspicion of first-degree burglary for the incident at Hampton Inn, Nelson said. Hayes was being held on a $100,000 bond Monday in connection with that crime; bond had not been set on the other charges.
During the investigation, Hayes made incriminating statements about the two robberies at Comfort Inn, a Columbia police news release said. Police also obtained evidence, including a handgun and ammunition, from the McKee Road house where Hayes was staying.
“We are hopeful that the handgun is the one that was used in the murder, but only a lab can confirm that,” Nelson said.
Guests at Comfort Inn, located at 2904 Clark Lane, had been trying to reach White at the front desk before police were called to the hotel, where they found her dead of a gunshot wound.
On Nov. 16, another clerk at the hotel was robbed at gunpoint. The victim of the robbery told police a man walked into the hotel lobby and asked if he could wait there for someone to pick him up because his car had broken down. After waiting in the lobby for 20 minutes, he displayed a small-caliber handgun. He raped and sodomized the victim then demanded money from her. The victim gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of money and her car keys. He drove off in the victim’s 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix.
“We are very happy with the cooperation we received from the media and the public in publicizing the photo and identifying the suspect,” Nelson said. “Together, that’s how we solve crimes.”