“I am not a violent individual,” said Stephan Leroy H. Lunningham to the judge at his bond hearing in Rockville. He made that statement moments after the prosecutor finished telling the court that Lunningham is accused of stabbing a woman 30 times, leaving her body in the car for at least two or three days before finally setting the car on fire in a wooded area near a middle school in an effort to cover up his crime.
Lunningham appeared in court via video link from the Montgomery County Detention Center where he is being held on first-degree murder and first-degree arson charges.
According to Montgomery County Police, Lunningham, 29, of the 18800 block of Harmony Woods Lane in Germantown has been charged with the murder of 49-year-old Angela Fay Thomas of Grosvenor Place in North Bethesda.
Thomas’ body was found in the back seat of her burning black Honda Accord at 4:22 am last Wednesday, March 14 in the13700 block of Wisteria Drive, directly across from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
Lunningham was represented by a public defender who argued that Lunningham had never been a flight risk and had never failed to appear in court in his past dealings with the justice system. Lunningham’s attorney also mentioned that he lived with his mother in Germantown and had held jobs at a Wingstop and as a landscaper.
The State’s Attorney countered that argument by saying Lunningham allegedly stabbed Thomas 30 times in the back, neck, and chest and drove around with her dead body in the car for a day or two before setting it on fire.
Lunningham was ordered held without bond by District Court Judge Amy J. Bills on due to violent nature of the crime and a recent warrant issued for his arrest on separate assault charges. Those charges stem from an incident in which Lunningham fractured a person’s eye socket, according to the State’s Attorney. Lunningham told the judge the assault those charges were “BS.” Prosecutors say that Lunningham was also charged with a robbery in 2011 in northern Virginia.
Angela Thomas had three adult children and worked as a cosmetologist, said her brother Marshall Thomas after the bond hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
According to police, Lunningham admitted to stabbing Thomas and setting the car on fire, after the two got into an argument. The vehicle was discovered on a service road used to gain access to the CSX railroad tracks which run parallel with Wisteria Drive in that area. The burned vehicle was sitting on the access road low portion of the ravine.
Thomas was last seen alive on Sunday afternoon, March 11, when Thomas was seen leaving the Germantown apartment of a friend with Lunningham, according to court documents. Lunningham was to drive Thomas, in her car, to another friend’s apartment to return a cellphone which Thomas had borrowed, and then to her apartment in North Bethesda to get a change of clothes, before coming back to the Germantown apartment. According to court documents, Lunningham was to drive because Thomas was “in no mental condition to drive a vehicle safely” when she left the apartment.
Thomas never made it to the friend’s apartment to return the cell phone, according to investigators.
Early the next morning at 4:08 am a black Honda Accord, which investigators believe was Thomas’ was captured on ATM security camera with a single occupant, a black male with dreadlocks. At 4:30 am, Lunningham appeared at the Germantown apartment of Thomas’ friend and inquired where Angela was, according to court documents.
The charging documents say that almost 24 hours later, Lunningham was observed with a red gas can purchasing $2.60 worth of gasoline at the 7-Eleven/Sunoco at 18701 Liberty Mill Road in Germantown. Twenty minutes later, firefighters were called to Wisteria Drive and located the burning Honda with Thomas’ body in the back seat.
Police were called to the scene, and Major Crimes detectives and fire investigators from the Montgomery County Office of Fire and Explosive Investigations began to conduct a joint vehicle fire and death investigation.
The victim’s remains were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, and an autopsy was completed. The Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. The victim has been tentatively identified as Thomas.
On March 19, a criminal warrant was issued for Lunningham’s arrest, charging him with the first-degree murder of Thomas and first-degree arson.
Lunningham was in a vehicle stopped by police, yesterday afternoon Wednesday, March 21, on the Beltway near the Colesville Road exit and he was arrested. He was transported to Police Headquarters and elected to make a statement. He admitted to stabbing Thomas after the two had a verbal altercation and then burning the car containing the victim’s remains.
Outside of Circuit Court in Rockville, Thomas’ mother Edwina Wright said, “She was a beautiful person inside and out. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. We all loved her very, very much.”
The victim’s brother, Marshall Thomas said, “She has three kids that will spend the rest of their lives missing her terribly, as well as hundreds of friends throughout the community who will miss her. She was a wonderful person. I miss my sister dearly. We want to thank the detectives for all their hard work.”
Lunningham is due back in court on April 20 for a preliminary hearing. If convicted he could face life in prison for the first-degree murder charge.
Top: Detectives have charged Stephan Lunningham of Germantown with murder and arson after he allegedly stabbed Angela Thomas 30 times and later tried to burn the body by setting her car on fire.
Next: Stephan Leroy Harris Lunningham, 29, of Harmony Woods Lane in Germantown. Photo courtesy MCPD.
Next: Montgomery County Police closed down Wisteria Drive in front of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School the morning of the fire and the subsequent discovery of the body of Angela Fay Thomas in the burned car.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.