Man accused of strangling acquaintance, starting fire


A 29-year-old city man was charged yesterday with strangling a Dundalk man last month and then trying to make it appear as though the victim had died in a house fire, Baltimore County police said.

Melvin Lee Lam of the 600 block of S. Macon St. was being held without bail at the county detention center on a first-degree murder charge last night, accused in the slaying Jan. 16 of Michael Riston, 27, police said.

Riston, who lived with his aunt in the 7300 block of Manchester Road and worked at a nearby McDonald's, was found dead by firefighters called to put out a bedroom fire in the house.

Police said they found Riston's stolen Chevrolet Cavalier in Southeast Baltimore on Jan. 20 not far from where Lam lived with his grandmother.

A fingerprint recovered from the Chevrolet matched Lam's, police said in charging documents filed in District Court.

When detectives found the car, police said, Lam approached them, gave them a fake name and address and told them that he had seen two men change the tires on the Chevrolet, the court papers show.

Police said the men were acquaintances. They had not determined a motive for the killing.

In 2002, Lam was ordered to undergo drug and alcohol counseling and screening after pleading guilty to a theft scheme charge, records show.

He is scheduled to go to trial next month on charges of stealing Riston's car.

Sun staff researcher Elizabeth Lukes contributed to this article.

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