One arrested, second sought in Stenson#039;s death

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2003

PHOENIX - A 19-year-old man was arrested on a homicide charge Thursday night in the death of Cincinnati Reds outfielder Dernell Stenson, and police said they were seeking a second suspect.

Reginald Riddle also was charged with armed robbery and kidnapping, Chandler police said.

Early Wednesday, Stenson's body was found in a street in a residential neighborhood in the Phoenix suburb. He had been shot, then run over and apparently dragged some distance by his own SUV.

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Riddle, from Harvey, Ill., is the half brother of Kevin Riddle, 43, who was found driving Stenson's SUV about two hours after the body was found.

Kevin Riddle was charged earlier with possession of stolen property, police said.

Authorities are seeking a third man, David Griffith, 20, who police said should be considered armed and dangerous.

Stenson, 25, made his major league debut with the Reds this year, batting .247 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 37 games. His last home run accounted for Cincinnati's final run of the season.

Stenson was having a big season in the Arizona Fall League, where up-and-coming players are sent to hone their skills. He was batting .394 - third-best in the league - through 18 games.

The Arizona Fall League canceled games on Wednesday and Thursday. Play was to resume on Friday.

Stenson wasn't even supposed to be playing in the Arizona league. He was a late addition when Wily Mo Pena was granted his wish to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

Stenson was claimed by the Reds off waivers from Boston on Feb. 25 after seven seasons in the Red Sox minor league organization.

''People are stunned,'' said Donnie Branch, Stenson's high school coach in LaGrange, Ga. ''In baseball, we've never had a better player. People in the country hadn't seen that yet and he was fixing to prove what he really could do.''

Mike Gallo, a Houston Astros pitcher and Stenson's teammate on the Arizona league's Scottsdale Scorpions, said the two had become good friends in the short time they had been together. He said Stenson had a 14-month-old child.

''He's just one of the most soft-spoken, athletic guys,'' Gallo said. ''You just wouldn't imagine it could happen to someone like that.''

Gallo said that after a day game on Tuesday, Stenson had gone out with some teammates ''for a few drinks, to relax and just hang out.'' Stenson called him, apparently to ask him to come along, Gallo said, but he didn't answer the phone.

Gallo said it was a mystery how Stenson wound up in Chandler, which is several miles from the Scottsdale clubs the players frequent.

''There's nothing out there,'' Gallo said. ''He had to be forced into doing it.''

In LaGrange, which also produced Mike Cameron of the Seattle Mariners, Stenson was remembered as a popular all-around athlete.

''He was someone every mother would want their child to be like - a great student, a great athlete, a super young man,'' LaGrange High School secretary Ellen Batchelor said.

Said baseball commissioner Bud Selig: ''I am terribly saddened by the sudden and tragic death of Dernell Stenson yesterday morning. My deepest sympathies go out to his family, his friends and his teammates.''