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Published: Thursday, 9/28/2006

Worker for Toledo arraigned in murder

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Graham, left, and McDonald Graham, left, and McDonald
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A city of Toledo refuse collector was arraigned yesterday on a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of a central-city mother of two.

Charles McDonald, 33, of 1311 Fernwood Ave., is being held in the Lucas County jail on $500,000 bond. He asked Judge Robert Christiansen in Toledo Municipal Court to continue his case to today so he could obtain an attorney.

McDonald is accused of killing Ericka Graham, 27, of 21 Brand Whitlock, who was found shot in the head Monday inside her residence.

Ms. Graham's mother, Denise Graham-Banks, said McDonald was her daughter's former boyfriend. One of the motives police are looking at in the slaying is jealousy, Assistant Police Chief Don Kenney said.

Ms. Graham's sister declined to comment after the arraignment. Ms. Graham-Banks said she didn't know why McDonald allegedly killed her daughter. She said the couple hadn't dated for about the last three months and that her daughter wasn't dating anyone.

Members of McDonald's family also attended the arraignment.

"It's just a tragedy," said McDonald's brother-in-law, who declined to give his name. "Ericka, we loved. She was like a part of our family too. Our souls are hurt."

After McDonald's arrest Tuesday, Chief Mike Navarre said there was no information that Ms. Graham was involved in any illegal drug activity police were investigating. A day earlier, police said her death might have been connected to a unsolved, weekend double murder of two men linked to a multimillion-dollar cocaine ring that stretched from Toledo to Chicago.

Brian Davis, 29, of Springfield Township and Lloyd Henderson, 29, of Springfield, Ohio, were found dead Sunday afternoon in a car in the 300 block of East Lake Street in North Toledo. They died of multiple gunshot wounds to their heads and it appeared they had been dead since Saturday night. A 12-member task force was formed to solve the case.

Police said Ms. Graham was newly acquainted with people involved in the drug ring, but there was no reason to suspect she had any knowledge of what they were involved in.

Ms. Graham-Banks said she was "very, very relieved" that police said her daughter was not involved in any drug investigation.

Police "cleared her name," Ms. Graham-Banks said. "I was very happy for them to clear that up to the public."

McDonald became a full-time refuse collector in May after working part-time since 2002. He did not call into or show up for work yesterday and will not get paid, said Brian Schwartz, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's spokesman.

McDonald was charged with gross misconduct Aug. 15 after a woman complained that he cursed at her, according to his personnel files and Mr. Schwartz. McDonald could be terminated if the charge is substantiated, but no hearing has been scheduled.

McDonald and another man were convicted in 1998 of attempted grand theft of a motor vehicle and possession of criminal tools, both felonies, in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. The charges stemmed from a break-in of a pickup truck at Matthews Ford in Oregon.

Also yesterday, Toledo City Councilman Michael Ashford, whose district includes the areas where four of nine recent murders occurred, renewed his request to Mayor Finkbeiner to hire at least 30 new police officers next year.

Mr. Ashford made his comments in front of the Uptown Market at Bancroft and Cherry streets, which was robbed by two armed men yesterday.

"Too often, citizens and businesses are being victimized. I can't go along with our mayor when he says we are safe," he said.

Mr. Ashford had no proposals for saving money elsewhere in the city's general fund budget to make room for the new hires. Mr. Schwartz said no decision has been made about how many officers could be hired in 2007.

"We've got to go through the budget process," he said. "When we know what funds are available, we'll know how big that class can be."

The mayor's proposed 2007 budget is due to council by Nov. 15.

With the addition of 29 officers Sept. 18, the police force numbers 550 patrol officers. The total sworn force is 692, Capt. Diana Ruiz-Krause said.

Blade staff writers Mark Reiter and Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at:

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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