Homicide suspect says he was the lookout

Monday, November 26, 2007 | 11:06 p.m. CST; updated 12:01 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — A man arrested Sunday evening in connection with a robbery and homicide at a Comfort Inn on Clark Lane told police he was only a “lookout” during the crime and that his friend, identified only as “C.J.” in a probable cause statement, actually fired the gun.

Columbia police arrested Dwight T. Hayes, 21, in connection with the killing. He was charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.

Police said that Hayes admitted to being a lookout during the robbery.

Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said those statements alone don’t implicate Hayes’ friend. He said officers spent “a lot of time and resources” on Monday trying to find C.J., who police are calling a “person of interest.” He said police have no other evidence indicating that two people were involved.

“We just need to locate him and interview him,” Nelson said. “We think we know where he lives, but it’s not like he’s sitting there waiting for us.”

Hayes said that he and C.J. planned the Saturday morning robbery and that C.J. demanded and received money from Comfort Inn’s general manager, Cynthia White, according to the probable cause statement.

Hayes said he watched while his friend, armed with a handgun, told White to go to a back room and then shot her, according to the statement. Hayes said he and C.J. shared the money.

Nelson said that even if Hayes’ statements about being a lookout are true, he will still be charged with the murder because the crime was premeditated.

Guests at the hotel, at 2904 Clark Lane, had been trying to reach White at the front desk before police were called to the hotel, where they found White dead of a gunshot wound to the head. One guest had reached a clerk in Jefferson City who notified police.

Police said they believe Hayes was involved in two other crimes earlier this month at hotels on Clark Lane.

“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.”

Based on a description from a Kansas man staying at Hampton Inn, 3410 Clark Lane, police said they believe Hayes was involved in an attempted burglary on Nov. 13.

Brian Plattner, of Sabetha, Kan., said a man knocked on his hotel room door asking for his ice bucket. When Plattner returned, the man produced a gun and demanded money. Plattner pushed the man out of the doorway and locked the door. He then called police and described the man.

Police matched the description with video surveillance footage of a man walking down a hallway at the hotel. When they released the photo to the media, a caller identified the man and police arrested Hayes.

Hayes was also charged in connection with a robbery and sexual assault at Fairfield Inn on Nov. 15. That hotel changed its name to Comfort Inn recently and is the same hotel where this weekend’s murder occurred.

According to court documents, Hayes walked into the hotel early that morning and asked the female clerk if he could wait there for someone to pick him up because his car had broken down. While waiting in the lobby, the probable cause statement said that Hayes asked the clerk, described as M.H., if she would have sex with him. The statement says that when she refused, Hayes produced a handgun and said, “Well, give me the money then.”

After receiving the money, the statement says that Hayes told the clerk to go to a back room where he raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Hayes was charged with first-degree robbery, forcible rape, forcible sodomy and two counts of armed criminal action in connection with the Nov. 15 robbery.

George Pate, the owner of the Comfort Inn, did not return a message left Monday morning.

Hayes was arrested Sunday evening at a relative’s home, 1812 McKee St., on suspicion of first-degree burglary for the incident at Hampton Inn, Nelson said. Hayes was being held on a $100,000 bond on Monday in connection with that crime; bond had not been set on the other charges.

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.

— Missourian reporter Renee Dubose contributed to the story.

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