The couple accused of killing a cab driver and burning his taxi in 2008 pleaded guilty Friday.
It was a case people found particularly shocking when investigators revealed the victim, Vincent Flores, likely was still alive when his assailants set fire to the cab with him in the trunk on Sept. 25, 2008. Flores, 54, of Smiths Station, Ala., died not only of a stab wound to his neck, but also inhaling soot, authorities said.
His body was still in the trunk, undiscovered, when the burned vehicle was returned to the A-Cab Company, where other workers found Flores when they opened the trunk.
Charged in Flores’ death were Fred E. Bickler and Carrie A. Lemke, both of Posen, Ill.
According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Alonzo Whitaker, Bickler pleaded guilty to felony murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and arson. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Whitaker said Lemke pleaded guilty to manslaughter, criminal attempt armed robbery, and aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
During a Columbus Recorder’s Court hearing in 2008, police gave this twisted account of the couple’s attack on Flores.Bickler had come to Columbus to work at the Greater Columbus Fair. Lemke, unemployed, accompanied her boyfriend. Bickler was fired.
Around 5:30 p.m. Sept. 24, a cab driver named Michael Turner picked up a man later identified as Bickler at the fair. Turner said Bickler wanted a ride to a BP gas station on Veterans Parkway at Manchester Expressway to get a Moneygram. After that, Turner dropped Bickler off at the Greyhound bus station on Veterans Parkway downtown.
Later that evening, Turner saw that Bickler still was at the Greyhound station, with a woman. That’s where Flores picked up Bickler and Lemke and took them to the Columbus Metropolitan Airport. Lemke had told Flores she had only $20, and Flores had replied that he would take them to the airport for $12. At the airport, the two asked Flores to take them to an ATM so they could pay the fare. Flores took them to a Circle K at 2525 Airport Thruway, where Bickler tried to withdraw money, but had insufficient funds. Flores then took the two back to the airport, where Bickler put his hand around Flores’ neck and told him to get out of the car and into the trunk.
Police believe Bickler stabbed Flores in the neck in the airport parking lot.
Bickler and Lemke then drove the cab to the Fort Benning gate, where guards told them they could not enter. After that, they drove around, lost, until they ran out of gas on Meloy Drive.
The cab then was in front of the home of Lena Spurlin, 67, who offered to help push the car off a curb. Lemke asked to use the bathroom, so Spurlin let her in. Inside Spurlin’s home, Lemke pulled a knife.
Spurlin pulled a knife, too, and chased Lemke out of her house.
Patrol officers called to Meloy Drive 7:30 a.m. found the cab ablaze, and summoned firefighters to extinguish the flames. But no one checked the vehicle’s trunk until the cab was returned to the taxi company.