Columbus police have arrested two people in connection with Thursday's slaying of a Phenix City cab driver.
Fred E Bickler, 29, and Carrie A. Lemke, 30, both of Posen, Ill. are accused of stabbing 54-year-old Vincent Flores, of Smiths Station, to death before stuffing his body in the trunk of his cab and setting the vehicle, which was parked on Meloy Drive in the Benning Hills area in Columbus, on fire.
Patrol officer were called to where the A-Cab Company cab was ablaze about 7:30 a.m. after a woman called 911 to report an attempted robbery, said Columbus Police Lt. Lynn Joiner. Once the burning vehicle was discovered, firefighters rushed to the scene as well.
After extinguishing the flames, authorities called the cab company to which the burnt car belonged. The company sent a wrecker to Columbus to retrieve the vehicle and bring it to Phenix City, Joiner said.
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It was in Phenix City that employees with the cab company discovered Flores' body in the trunk of the car. Law enforcement from both sides of the river responded to the scene. Flores was pronounced dead by Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry at 12:03 p.m.
Authorities were able to quickly determine the crime occurred in Columbus, thereby giving the Columbus Police Department jurisdiction in the case.
By 4:30 p.m., police had Bickler and Lemke in custody. They were found at the Greyhound Bus Station on Veteran's Parkway, Joiner said.
Police believe Flores picked the two up and transported them to north Columbus. The victim was stabbed and placed in the trunk of his cab at an undetermined location in Columbus, Joiner said. The two suspects then allegedly drove back to south Columbus and ran out of gas in Benning Hills. At that point, Lemke allegedly attempted to rob a 67-year-old female with a knife on Meloy Drive. The female victim defended herself with a bigger knife, Joiner said, and ran the suspect out of her house. The cab was then set on fire and the two suspects ran from the area.
"One suspect led us to the area behind Benning Hill Elementary where a knife and personal items belonging to the victim were found in a ditch," Joiner said.
Bickler and Lemke are charged with murder, kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle, first-degree arson, criminal attempt armed robbery of person over 65 and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime. They are due in Recorder's Court for their first appearance hearing Saturday at 9 a.m.
This brings the number of murders in Columbus this year to 18.