ABERDEEN -- Elvert Jones was known among co-workers at the Victory Cab Co. as a cautious taxi driver, particularly when he picked up unfamiliar fares.
But he had no reason to be suspicious June 22 when he picked up three men he knew, including a neighbor. Yet, police say, it was that fare that cost him his life.
"The irony is these boys were our neighbors. When they got lTC evicted from their home we raised money for them," said Carol Iturralde, Mr. Jones' sister, the disbelief evident in her voice.
She said her brother had been carrying just $15.
She described her younger brother as lovable and thoughtful. Mr. Jones frequently took her four children to the zoo and on picnics.
He also would do chores for their elderly and ill father, and cared for two neighbors who were Vietnam veterans, doing odd jobs for them such as shopping and cutting lawns, Ms. Iturralde said.
"He was not the sort of person to just take off," said Ms. Iturralde, explaining she was so upset when he disappeared that she put a blanketand container of water in her car and set out to try to find him. Her search was unsuccessful.
Mr. Jones, 41, last made contact with a Victory dispatcher June 22. Four days later, the body of the Aberdeen man was found in the trunk of his taxi after it was pulled from 50 feet of water in an abandoned quarry in northern Harford County.
An autopsy report by the state medical examiner's office says Mr. Jones was strangled before his body was put in the taxi trunk.
Three Harford men -- including one who lived on the same street as Mr. Jones -- have been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying.
Two of the men are step-brothers: Clifton Paul Brinegar, 19, of the 100 block of Cedar Lane in Bel Air and Billy Joe Brinegar, 19, of the first block of Warren St. in Aberdeen.
The third suspect, Stanley Joseph Baczeski Jr., 29, lives in the 200 block of Valley Road in Aberdeen -- about four doors away from Mr. Jones' home.
Mr. Jones served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He had worked as a musician, an electrician and a contractor. He was driving a cab this summer because he wanted to go to school in the fall to become a surveyor, his sister said.
"He was a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of all of them," Ms. Iturralde said.
At the cab company, he would often help mechanics repair cabs, said Cissy Mauck, chief dispatcher at Victory, noting, "He could do just about anything he set his mind to."
Called "E.J." by family and co-workers, Mr. Jones was a gregarious man, willing to help his friends, Ms. Mauck recalled.
The dispatcher said that Mr. Jones was always willing to work 12-hour shifts, even when business was slow. Ms. Mauck also recalled that he enjoyed playing the guitar and was an avid reader.
A memorial service for Mr. Jones will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Mount Calvary Methodist Church in Aberdeen.
Ms. Iturralde said her brother's ashes are to be placed next to the grave of their mother, who died eight years ago.
In addition to his sister, Mr. Jones is survived by his father, John C. Jones; and a son, Eric Jason Jones, 17.
Victory Cab has started a memorial fund to help Mr. Jones' family pay for the funeral expenses. The company has set up an account at Harford National Bank and distributed cans to collect money at several local businesses.
"He was a likable guy," Ms. Mauck said. "He had a lot of friends. He will be missed."