Crime

Official: 2 fatal carjackings at Taj Mahal random

Monday, September 19, 2011

The fact that armed thugs have carjacked and killed two casino patrons from the parking garage of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in little more than a year is a "random coincidence" that could have happened anywhere, Atlantic County's prosecutor said Monday.

Theodore Housel also said that the three suspects in the latest carjacking had cased other casino parking garages before targeting their victims in the Taj Mahal garage.

The prosecutor pointedly refused to fault security at the casino, which he described as good, noting a special police detail had been assigned to the Taj Mahal, although it was off-duty Sunday morning when the carjacking occurred.

Killed was 28-year-old Sunil Rattu of Old Bridge. His companion, 24-year-old Radha Ghetia of Sayreville is recovering in a hospital, where she was listed in good condition Monday.

Both were shot by the carjackers in an alley not far from the casino.

The killing marked the second time since May 2010 that a fatal carjacking began in the Taj Mahal garage. Martin Caballero, 47, of North Bergen, was carjacked last year and later found stabbed to death. Craig Arno, 45, of Atlantic City, and Jessica Kisby, 25, of Egg Harbor Township, are awaiting trial in that case.

"I truly believe this was a random coincidence," Housel said Monday at a news conference at which he urged the public to be on the lookout for a vehicle believed to have been used by the killers. "This type of opportunistic offense could take place anywhere. The fact that it took place at the Taj Mahal is mere happenstance."

The prosecutor said the three "persons of interest" captured on a video surveillance camera emerging from a garage stairwell may be driving a gray Saturn Ion with New Jersey license plates UTN-66U. It had been reported stolen in August in Haddonfield. Anyone who sees the car should notify police immediately, he said, noting the occupants should be considered possibly armed "and certainly dangerous."

Housel said the victims, whom he described as friends, had just left the casino around 8 a.m. when they were accosted by the suspects before they could enter their vehicle. They were robbed of a small amount of cash and forced at gunpoint to drive out of the casino garage and to a nearby alley, where both were shot.

Atlantic City Police received two 911 calls at 8:26 a.m. and 8:27 a.m. reporting gunshots. They found Ghetia being treated by an off-duty firefighter in the alley, suffering from a gunshot wound that went through her upper body and exited. Rattu was found dead in the backseat of the vehicle.

The prosecutor said the suspects appear to be in their early 20s. He said his office has evidence they had cased other casino garages for potential victims, but he would not say if they were captured on surveillance videos at any other casinos. He would not identify the other casinos the trio had visited before the Taj Mahal attack.

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new jersey, atlantic county, carjacking, crime
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