Suspect in carjackings denied bond

A 17-year-old boy slammed into a mailbox because he was texting while driving a stolen SUV, setting in motion a series of arrests that led to him and charges that he had targeted women in parking lots, according to testimony.

Atlanta Police Department investigator Lakea Gaither, assigned to the APD’s gang unit, laid out the initial evidence Monday against Steve Spigner, the suspected leader of a band of young men who for about a month allegedly trolled parking lots in Atlanta. He and his partners would allegedly punch the women in their faces so they could take their purses, cellphones and, sometimes, their cars.

Spigner was indicted Aug. 15 in Fulton County for allegedly attacking a woman in the parking lot of Phipps Plaza earlier this month. And on Monday, he appeared before a magistrate for a preliminary hearing on the charges that he robbed three other women in areas of Atlanta that fall into DeKalb County.

He was ordered held without bond.

Spigner and at least two others are suspects in five metro area robberies, the first one on July 5. One of the crimes was in Fulton County and the rest were in DeKalb, though charges have been brought in only three of them.

Spigner was arrested two weeks ago and Ethan Gathright, also 17, and Hoye Anderson, 18, were arrested and charged last week.

Spigner and Gathright are charged with the July 5 assault on a woman who had just stepped out of her 2011 Mercedes on a lower level parking lot near the Target at the Edgewood Shopping District. She was punched in the head and knocked to the ground, and then her car was taken.

Two days later, according to police, Spigner and his partners were driving the stolen Mercedes when they accosted a woman as she was getting things out of the trunk of her car that was parked outside a retirement home on East Lake Boulevard, where she worked. In that case, they allegedly took her phone and purse but left her car.

On July 12, the Mercedes taken from the Edgewood Shopping Center was found abandoned on Memorial Drive.

That same day, and a short walk away, Spigner and two partners jumped into a rented Ford Escape while a woman was standing a few feet away, talking with a friend in the parking lot of the Long John Silver restaurant in east Atlanta, Gaither testified.

When Spigner put the SUV in gear, the woman jumped on the hood and held on until Spigner threatened to shoot her if she didn’t get off, Gaither said.

The woman didn’t see a gun, but she knew there was one in the car, the investigator said. The woman had tucked her 9 mm Rugar between the driver’s seat and the front console. It was not known if Spigner also saw the gun, which has not been recovered, the investigator said.

The woman provided enough of a description for a sketch that Gaither said looked exactly like the picture on Spigner’s driver’s license. But it wasn’t until mid-August that police had a name.

Meanwhile, there were two more incidents police have linked to Spigner.

On July 14, a woman was punched and her things taken moments after she walked out of a Sears store at Stonecrest Mall. No charges have been filed in this instance, however.

Finally, on Aug. 4, Spigner, Gathright and Anderson allegedly attacked a woman as she was walking toward her BMW parked at Phipps Plaza, taking her car as well.

Police said Spigner and his group were apparently using the cars just for transportation and not to sell.

Gaither said Spigner called himself the “taxi man” and would drive people to where they wanted to go for $5. Spigner had bragged that his mother rented the car for him to use.

He was driving two 16-year-olds to buy shoes when he crashed into a brick mailbox. The passengers were quickly caught and charged with theft by receiving. Police said they don’t think the two knew the car was stolen.

According to Gaither, the 16-year-olds gave police Spigner’s name. Spigner gave police Gathright and Anderson. And Gathright and Anderson allegedly said they were there but Spigner was the one behind the crimes.