SPECIAL REPORT: Charles Randall Kelly ducked authorities for four months after his former roommate was killed — until a pair of Port Authority police officers at the George Washington Bridge stopped a truck he was riding in and asked the right questions.
Officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in Virginia were on their way to the Bergen County Jail this morning to collect Kelly, who officially was wanted on a probation violation but is also a “person of interest” in the death of another law-breaker, Johnny Arwood.
Port Authority police arrested Kelly around 6:40 last night, following a stop at the George Washington Bridge tolls.
Kelly, 52, was a passenger in a tractor-trailer that had no front license plate and an opaque rear plate, the authority’s Al Della Fave told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Officers Steve Pisciotta and Raymond Rodriguez moved in and stopped the rig, then separated the driver and his passenger and questioned them individually.
Kelly told the officers he worked for Manuel Velasco, of Valley Stream.
But Velasco said he’d picked up the 5-foot-8-inch, 160-pound Kelly on Sept. 16 at a Route 81 service station in Tennessee while making deliveries. Kelly and another man approached him while he was checking out a fuel-line problem, Velasco told police, but he’d agree to take only Kelly.
The plan was to drop him off in Virginia, he said, but Kelly remained along for the ride on deliveries to Virginia and Pennsylvania — even having dinner at his Long Island home and sleeping outside in his truck.
A consent search of the truck turned up a knife in the glove compartment that Velasco said he wasn’t aware of.
The officers immediately ran a background check on Kelly and found both the probation warrant, charges of theft and forgery in another incident and the person-of-interest notification, Della Fave said.
Police in White Pine, Tennessee, said they began looking for Kelly after the 47-year-old Arwood’s body was found at his home, a quilt thrown over it, on May 21.
They suspect he was killed by his long-time friend during an argument over money the day before.
Missing was Arwood’s gold 1980 Ford F150. The last person seen driving it: Kelly.
Ironically, Velasco had a transponder in the tractor-trailer and might have gotten through the toll if it had functioned properly when the rig passed through the EZ Pass lane, Della Fave said.
The officers issued Velasco summonses for evasion and the missing plate and released him pending a court hearing.