'Dope-sick' couple held for trial in police-chase rampage

Posted: March 26, 2013

AMID ALL of the noise in the courtroom - attorneys arguing about the merits of driving while being "dope-sick" and about who stole which car, a judge sustaining this and overruling that - Blake Bills managed to find time to quietly mouth a few words to Shayna Sykes.

Maybe it was a thought about the drug habit that was fed with 20-to-30 bags of cocaine and heroin a day, as Bills allegedly told a detective earlier this month. Or maybe it was the couple's decision to go "out with a bang," as Sykes put it in her statement to police, when the couple allegedly stole two cop cars on March 5 and led police on separate white-knuckle chases that ended in smoke, flames and twisted metal

Whatever the message, a Municipal Court worker, looking every bit like an annoyed librarian, marched toward Bills and shushed him Monday afternoon as the couple's marathon preliminary hearing dragged out.

When the hearing was finally over, Judge Frank Brady ordered Bills, 24, and Sykes, 23, held on charges that include reckless endangerment, assault and driving under the influence.

Both are due back in court for a formal arraignment April 15.

The preliminary hearing offered a glimpse into the couple's erratic behavior in the days before their alleged crime spree made national headlines.

According to a statement that Sykes gave to Detective Paul Alminde, of East Detectives, the couple bought drugs in north Camden in early March, then sped off when they were stopped by a Camden cop.

"He's a great driver," Sykes said of Bills, according to the statement.

On March 4, Sykes said, she stole a Nissan in Northern Liberties. The car's contents - an iPod, an iPhone and a GPS - were sold in Kensington for cash that was used to buy heroin.

The car was ditched in Camden, and Sykes and Bills spent the night on the frigid street. The following day, the couple, whose last known address was in Macungie, Lehigh County, decided to get in touch with their parents to try to get money - and maybe turn their lives around.

"We talked about quitting drugs and he said, 'OK, let's go out with a bang,' " Sykes said, according to her statement.

Bills spotted Camden Police Officer Sekou Reid-Bey, who was conducting a car stop near the police-administration building.

Bills told Alminde that he hopped into the cruiser and took off, striking Reid-Bey, who rolled across the hood and suffered a broken leg.

"I imagine it hurts to be hit by a car," Bills allegedly told Alminde.

"Blake told me he was going to hell for hitting a cop," Sykes said, according to the statement.

(Bills and Sykes face separate charges in Camden.)

The couple raced across the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, listening as their exploits were being described on the police scanner.

Philadelphia Police Officer John Higgins testified Monday that he saw the Camden police car spin out at 7th and Norris streets after striking three parked cars, a tree and a house.

Bills attempted to run away, but was captured. "He stated that he was dope-sick and needed to get to a hospital," Higgins said.

Sykes, meanwhile, jumped into Higgins' cruiser and sped off. The cop car sideswiped several vehicles and caught fire before finally sputtering to a stop in Northern Liberties, where Sykes was arrested.

"I'm sorry for everything that happened. It was a drug-induced, stupid decision," Bills told Alminde, according to his statement. "I want to stop using drugs."

The couple, who have a 7-month-old daughter, said nothing as they were led out of court Monday. Both looked healthier than the strung-out mug shots that police released after the arrest.

One of Bills' relatives shouted as the couple faded from view: "Keep your head up, bro!"


On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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