Hot lead in disappearance runs cold
By Leesha Faulkner, Brian Tynes
and Desiree Taylor
Shortly after meeting in Selma Police headquarters Monday morning, the relatives of Tarasha “Pooh” Benjamin took to the streets in search of their loved one.
Benjamin disappeared Saturday morning after telling her mother, Regina Benjamin, she wanted to go to the flea market. The vehicle, in which Benjamin left her home on Dogwood in Cahaba Park West, was discovered abandoned Saturday evening on the Cecil Jackson Bypass.
Family and friends have distributed handbills with Tarasha’s picture on them and contact numbers. Police also have distributed the flyers.
On Monday afternoon, a group of people met at the Larry D. Striplin Performing Arts Center to organize a search for the 18-year-old.
“We want volunteers to take different sections of the city and county to search,” said Angela Benjamin, Ward 4 city council member and a relative of the teenager. “We want the police department and mayor to get the public up to speed about what happened.”
About the time the group at the center heard from Mayor George Evans and Police Chief William Riley III, several blocks away police cars sped across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, sirens screaming and lights flashing, as they responded to a report of an altercation in connection with the missing girl.
Wesley Bell, one of those at the site in Selmont, said he was driving down the road behind the Curb Market in Selmont and saw a man walking down the street in the direction of his house. Bell stopped his car. He said he worked with the man, who he knows only by the name of “Charles” in a work-release program with the city.
“Before I could talk to him, he said ‘I ain’t done nothing,’ and ran away,” Bell said.
Before Bell could get out of his vehicle he saw the man run into the woods near the railroad tracks. Bell chased him and found a white towel with blood on it.
“It looked like evidence,” Bell said, adding the man also dropped his hat.
Bell said he yelled to the man, “If you haven’t done anything, what are you running for?”
Police detectives and family and friends of Tarasha covered the road behind the little store on U.S. 80 E. A few dozen went down the railroad tracks in search of the man. Others, about 10-15 went into the woods to look for him.
“We didn’t find anything,” said a police officer as he sat in his patrol car. “We’re still looking.”