Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Year off to deadly start with five homicides in 2015

Year off to a deadly start in Baltimore with five homicides in five days

A bookshelf filled with Matthew Arnell Thomas' honor roll trophies and school photos became a focus of family members's grief Monday as they remembered the gentle 11-year-old boy whose potential was cut short.

They held framed pictures or read off brass plaques listing Matthew's prowess at a "Jeopardy" contest or the years he had been named to the school's honor society.

"We knew whatever he did in life, he was going to go far," said his aunt Amber Smith.

Baltimore police discovered Matthew shot to death Sunday morning in an SUV parked in the Pulaski Industrial Area. Also inside the vehicle was the body of Matthew's father, Warren Everette Thomas, 54, police say. Detectives believe they died in a murder-suicide, two of six people killed by violence just four days into the new year.

The slain include a 38-year-old man killed inside a Northeast Baltimore nightclub early Saturday and a Kenyan immigrant who police say was killed by his wife and stepson.

Baltimore police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said police are troubled by the killings, which come after the city saw a 10 percent decrease in homicides last year. Commanders are reviewing each case to see if patrol deployments should be reallocated, though all the victims appear to have been targeted, Kowalczyk said.

The deadly start to the year is reminiscent of 2014, when 27 people were killed in January, nearly double the average for the month over the previous four years.

Police say the Thomases left Matthew's two-story Northeast Baltimore duplex at 7 a.m. on New Year's Day. They didn't say where they were going, police said.

Family members began to worry after not hearing from them, and they called police the next morning, Kowalczyk said. An officer took a missing- persons report that said neither Warren nor Matthew Thomas had cellphones.

A family member told police that "Mr. Thomas has never left like this before" and she knew no reason for their absence, according to the police report. The police report said Warren Thomas had been laid off from his job.

Police released a description of the SUV that Warren Thomas was driving, Kowalczyk said. An officer spotted the vehicle Sunday in the industrial park, a mile and a half away from Matthew's home, bringing the search to a tragic end.

Matthew was the second of the weekend's homicide victims to have been reported missing. A missing-person report was also filed by the family of Karim Bonner, 26, on Dec. 19. They told police he had left home two days earlier saying he was "going up the street for a minute," the report said. Police found him Saturday shot in the head in the back of a rented van.

At Matthew's home, books such as "Exploding Science" and "The Story of King Arthur and his Knights" remain scattered, left behind by the voracious reader who attended St. James & John Catholic School. He loved baseball and was working on a science project about acid in sports energy drinks. He owned chemistry and fingerprint sets, telescopes, microscopes and Spider-Man posters.

His family called him "Matt-Matt," and he split his free time between reading and playing Minecraft.

"You'd go in his room and you'd see 101 video games but you'd look across the room and see just as many books," Smith said.

Family members say they believe God had a purpose in taking Matthew, Smith said. They remembered the recent holidays, how Matthew was excited to give his infant cousin Christmas gifts and how he danced in a "Happy New Year" top hat at midnight on New Year's Eve.

Police, meanwhile, continue to investigate the shooting death of Leon Flemming, 38, killed Saturday inside YOLO Bar and Lounge at 12:07 a.m. Police say no one else was shot at the club, and they have no suspects.

Later that morning, officers arrived in the 500 block of Queensgate Road on Saturday, where they found Tamara Harvey, 37, kneeling by wounded husband Josephat Kobia, 40

Police say Kobia's 17-year-old stepson, Cameron Barnes, gave a videotaped statement at police headquarters that night in which he admitted to the shooting. The teen said Kobia, who had a gun in his waistband, had argued with him about not cleaning his room and was pushing him, according to charging documents. That's when Barnes said he grabbed the gun and shot Kobia in the head before fleeing. He was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, as was Kobia's wife.

Her involvement was unclear. In charging documents, police wrote that she had given inconsistent statements and admitted to being in the house and hearing a "pop," which she "did not investigate."

Kobia was "very well known in the Kenyan community," according to friend Fred Mutegi.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/justingeorge

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