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Year After Fatal Carjacking, Family's Sorrow Lingers : Maryland: Pam Basu was dragged to her death while trying to rescue her toddler. The case prompted Congress to make the crime a federal felony. But that, and the conviction of the killers, provides no solace to Basu's husband.

September 26, 1993|LAURA REHRMANN | ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAVAGE, Md. — From Biswanath Basu's small, toy-strewn front lawn, he can see the quiet intersection where his wife suffered the last terrifying moments of her life.

Every day, he relives those moments.

A year after Pam Basu, 34, was dragged to her death in a carjacking as she attempted to rescue her 2-year-old daughter, a "For Sale" sign stands in front of Basu's two-story townhouse.

"It's still very vivid and very painful," Basu said recently, days before taking his wife's ashes back to India for a Hindu ceremony meant to put her soul to rest.

Pam Basu's death shocked people nationwide and prompted Congress to make carjacking a federal felony. Although her killers have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison, her husband can find no peace.

"I don't even know how long it will take to get everything sort of settled," he murmured. "Sometimes I seem to be able to do things normally. Other times I can't.

"I have this continuing sorrow and void."

As anti-theft devices become more sophisticated and more widespread, criminals are opting instead to take the car while the driver is in it, said Maryland state police spokesman Greg Shipley.

"It's just one more thing that people have had to become aware of in the 1990s," he said.

On Sept. 8, 1992, the Basu family was celebrating a happy milestone in daughter Sarina's life. Basu was proudly videotaping his wife of 12 years taking Sarina to her first day of preschool when two men passed in the background.

Minutes later, as Pam Basu, a research chemist, stopped at an intersection 100 yards from her front door, two men pulled her from her BMW. As she fought to rescue her daughter, her arm became entangled in the seat belt and she was dragged almost two miles to her death.

Sarina was left by the roadside unharmed.

Bernard Miller, 17, was convicted of murder in April and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Rodney Solomon, 27, was convicted of murder in August and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But despite the federal law and stiffer penalties enacted in Maryland and other states, motorists are still being victimized across the country:

* Yvonne Los, 32, a mother of two and an Air Force sergeant, was shot to death in May in Moreno Valley, Calif., when she refused to surrender her car. Police believe a group of teen-agers responsible for several carjackings had a policy of shooting uncooperative victims.

* Sherri Janine Foreman, 29, and her 13-week-old fetus were stabbed to death at a Sherman Oaks automatic teller last April by a man who demanded her car. The attacker fled without it, apparently because Foreman set off her car alarm.

* Less than a week later, Kathy May Lee, 27, was shot to death outside an Alhambra fabric store in front of her mother, apparently by a youth who wanted the Lexus she was driving. Lee had planned to shop for material for her wedding dress.

* One of the nation's leading amateur boxers, Mark Rayner, 23, was shot to death in April near a Detroit gas station in a botched carjacking.

* Three men, the first to be convicted under the federal carjacking law, were sentenced in April to life in prison without parole for the execution-style slaying of two men during a November, 1992, carjacking in Osceola County, Fla.

In Maryland, 193 carjackings--none fatal--were reported in the first three months of this year, according to the latest state police data.

National statistics won't be available until next year.

Pam Basu's death still troubles many residents of Savage, an affluent suburb halfway between Washington and Baltimore.

"It's one of those freaky things that happen," Jean Daley said as she pushed her 4-month-old son, Andrew, in a stroller across the intersection where Pam Basu's car was taken.

She said she still feels safe, but takes more precautions.

"The one thing I do now is I lock my door the second I get in my car and I don't roll down my windows," she said. "They are things that I do now to protect myself that I didn't used to do."

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