$5K reward for info on Safco murder suspect

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

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It’s been 138 days since Mary Breeden learned her son, Rakim, had been murdered.

She watched the 26-year-old leave her house in Como, North Carolina, the morning of Sept. 23 for his first day of work at the Safco distribution center in Isle of Wight County. She received a phone call from one of his friends later that day informing her Rakim had been shot on the job — allegedly over a dropped cellphone.

Now, she’s partnered with the Isle of Wight County Crime Line to offer a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the man police say killed him.

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office has charged 23-year-old Preston Kyle Thomas with the crime, but despite their efforts to locate him, Thomas has remained at large for months.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Rakim damaged Thomas’s cellphone when he knocked it off a ledge, provoking an argument between the two employees. Thomas then allegedly retrieved a gun from his car and shot Rakim multiple times during a second argument while the two were outside on break. Rakim died en route to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital that same day.

“When I say this was a senseless tragedy, I cannot underscore that enough,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Tommy Potter at a Feb. 8 press conference announcing the $5,000 reward.

Deputies and a Virginia State Police tactical team attempted to apprehend Thomas the day of the crime at his last known address in the Eagle Harbor Apartments complex in Carrollton. There, they spotted a car allegedly belonging to Thomas that had been seen leaving the scene of the shooting — but not Thomas himself.

“We did receive some information that just prior to our arrival, he was there, and he had left,” Potter said.

According to Potter, investigators have since made dozens of trips to the Peninsula, where Thomas is alleged to have fled after leaving Carrollton, and have continued to work with Peninsula and state law enforcement agencies in their search. In addition to offering the $5,000 reward, the Crime Line plans to arrange for Thomas’s wanted poster to display on electronic billboards throughout Hampton Roads.

Thomas is still “believed to be in the local area” intermittently, Potter said.

Crime Line rewards were capped at $1,000 per state law until two years ago, when it changed to allow rewards of up to $5,000. According to Potter, even with the change, most crime lines have continued to offer $1,000 rewards, only going up to $5,000 in cases like this where the family or some other sponsor is willing to put up the money.

Breeden described her son as a “straight A student” who “didn’t bother people.”

He’d put himself through college, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology after a tour in the National Guard.

He’d moved back in with his mother to care for her after she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

“That morning, when he went to work, I was prepared that afternoon to ask him, ‘How was your day?’ … then I got a phone call,” she recalled, through tears.

“Please, anyone that knows the whereabouts of this young man, please, I plead with you, find it in your heart, please turn him in,” she said.

“I have a personal message for Mr. Thomas,” said Sheriff James Clarke Jr. “Turn yourself in peacefully. If you don’t, we will not stop looking for you. We will find you, and you will answer to these charges.”

Thomas is charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of murder. According to Potter, Thomas has had prior minor arrests.

Those with information on Thomas’s whereabouts can submit an anonymous tip to 1-888-LOCK-U-UP, www.P3tips.com or the P3 Tips app.