One of two people charged in the robbery of an Uber driver in Elizabethtown made it easy for police to identify her by leaving her purse behind with her driver’s license in it, court records show. The other is accused of striking the victim on the head and arm with a hatchet and was quickly found because footprints in the snow led from the crime scene to his home, according to court records.
Brett Thomas Brown, 20, of South Spruce Street near Cedar Street in Elizabethtown, and Paula Jo Katherine Kearney, 19, of Maryland Avenue near Hawthorne Street in York, are both charged with the first-degree felony of robbery and other offenses. Both are held in the Lancaster County Prison while awaiting preliminary hearings scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, before Magisterial District Judge Jayne F. Duncan.
Brown is also charged with the first-degree felony of conspiracy to commit robbery, the first-degree felony of aggravated assault and the third-degree misdemeanor of loitering and prowling at nighttime. Kearney is also charged with the first-degree felony of conspiracy to commit robbery and the first-degree misdemeanor of theft.
The driver was working for Uber, an online ride-hailing system. The system connects riders with drivers, who use their own cars to give rides to people who reserve them on mobile phones. Drivers are paid a portion of the fee collected by the service.
Elizabethtown Police Detective Matthew T. Shuey explained how police found probable cause to file charges in sworn statements filed in court. He said the robbery happened in the predawn hours of Tuesday, March 13, after the driver picked up two men and a woman in York and drove them to an address on College Avenue between Market and Spruce streets in Elizabethtown. The driver told police that upon arrival, the male passenger seated directly behind him struck him with a hatchet on the right side of his head near his temple and also injured his right forearm. The driver told police that the male passengers removed a black garment bag from the trunk and the female passenger left her purse behind along with a knife.
The purse contained a driver’s license belonging to Kearney with a York address that Shuey wrote was consistent with the victim’s account of where his picked up the passengers.
Footprints in the snow going from the crime scene led to the rear of Brown’s home, Shuey wrote in court papers. Shuey wrote that Officers Michael Lyons and Jacob Kadilak spoke with Brown and noted wet sneakers and wet sweatpants in his bedroom. Shuey wrote that Lyons described the sweatpants as completely wet with clumps of snow on the lower cuff area and noted that the tread pattern on the wet sneakers matched the footprints leading away from the crime scene. Brown was taken into custody less than an hour after the robbery happened.
Shuey wrote that Kadilak and Officer Alex Leonard followed the trail of footprints and found a black garment bag with a hatchet under it that matched the description given by the victim of the weapon used to attack him. The garment bag was found to contain a sports sweat jacket with the name Brown on it, among other items.
Shuey wrote that Officer James Knarr of the York City Police Department contacted Elizabethtown police in the predawn hours of Thursday, March 15, to say he had been informed that Kearney was being treated for a fall injury at the emergency room of Wellspan York Hospital and admitted to being involved in “mugging” an Uber driver in Elizabethtown.
Shuey wrote that he went to the hospital in York and interviewed Kearney at about 3:30 a.m.; he wrote that Kearney admitted to arranging for the Uber ride using a friend’s Uber account. Shuey wrote that the passengers were Kearney, Kearney’s boyfriend and Brown. The boyfriend has not been charged with a crime. Shuey wrote that Kearney told him that she knew Brown had a hatchet and knife with him and that when the driver stopped, Brown hit him in the head with the hatchet. Shuey wrote that Kearney said all three ran from the scene and that she and her boyfriend went to a friend’s house about two blocks away from Brown’s home.
The Advocate invited Kearney and Brown to be interviewed for this article, but got no response by press time.