Tattoos lead to capture of suspect in frying-pan murder

Danei Washington Gordon
Danei Washington Gordon

For more than two years, he hid from police. But the game of hide-and-seek finally ended because he couldn’t escape from a name and a note.

The name: Danei. The note: A musical clef symbol.

Both were tattooed on the arms of 21-year-old Danei Washington Gordon, a fugitive who police say cracked a heated metal frying pan over the head of a senior citizen in his North Miami home, killing him almost instantly.

The symbol and the name — spotted by a U.S. deputy marshal as he pulled his car alongside Gordon while he was riding a bike — was more than enough to alert backup to block Gordon’s ride along Garden Street in Hartford, Connecticut, where federal agents believed he was hiding.

“That kid had no idea a deputy marshal pulled up to him,” said Barry Golden, a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshal’s service. “The kid was moving in and out of traffic. We corralled him.”

Golden said Gordon gave a fake name, but it backfired because of the tattoo. He had no arrest record, so his fingerprints weren’t on file.

The day after his Aug. 19 capture, Miami-Dade homicide detectives flew to Hartford to question Gordon. The county had already secured a court-ordered arrest warrant with a second-degree murder charge. Now the cops are awaiting his extradition.

Gordon, who attended Miramar High School in Broward, is being held in the Hartford Correctional Center as the family of Neville Smith, 73, the caretaker Gordon is accused of killing, awaits his return. Smith lived a modest life, according to his family, driving a cab for most of the 30 years he lived in the Miami area.

It was early evening in April 2013 when a man named Everton Blake returned to a home in the 14200 block of Northeast Second Court and found Smith lying in blood on the bathroom floor. Blake, who lived in the home with Gordon and Smith, told police that only the two men were home when he left for work early that morning.

Smith’s daughter Joi Crockett said police told her that Smith’s breakfast was still in the kitchen when they found his body.

“I don’t know what would cause someone to do that to a 73-year-old,” she told Miami Herald news partner CBS4.

After Smith’s death, police had trouble finding a photo of Gordon, until he emerged on Facebook several months after Smith’s death. Gordon and his mother had been living with Smith since arriving illegally from Jamaica, police said.

Gordon’s likely motive, police believe: repeated threats from Smith that he would have Gordon deported if he didn’t change his behavior and give up drugs.

By July 2013, police had obtained an arrest warrant for Gordon. In April 2014, Miami-Dade police requested assistance from the U.S. Marshal’s Office after learning Gordon was likely hiding out in Connecticut.

Golden, the federal inspector, said agents working undercover had “saturated” Hartford’s North Side the past few months searching for Gordon. The deputy who spotted him last week pulled alongside Gordon as he rode his bike after matching his features to a height and weight description.

Smith’s daughter, who lives in Miami, told CBS4 that she appreciates that officers never gave up looking for the man accused of murdering her father.

“My dad was everything,” Crockett said. “I just recently had another child and he’ll never know his grandfather. I have my older son who I constantly try to remind him who is grandfather is, so he will not forget him.”