Jury convicts city aide, 2nd man of murder

March 06, 1991|By Sheridan Lyons

To prosecutors, Dominic J. Carozza was the man known as "Crowbar," a city public works employee with a less-than-pristine past who teamed up with two other men -- "Tattoo Bobby" and "Crazy" -- to plan and carry out the murder of a junkie who had borrowed $2,400 and then neglected to pay it back.

To Carozza's defense lawyer, he was a "soft touch" -- a grandfatherly man who commonly forgave $1,000 debts and had tried to salvage the life of a drug-addicted woman, who then repaid his generosity bytestifying against him.

In the end, it took a Baltimore Circuit Court jury less than half a day of deliberation to make up their minds. Carozza, a 59-year-old resident of Little Italy, was found guilty of murder yesterday, along with the man known as "Tattoo Bobby" -- Robert Vizzini, 26, of the 200 block of Dorell Road in Essex -- who prosecutors said had acted as Carozza's enforcer.

Both were convicted in the murder last June of Russell C. Baker, a drug addict who allegedly owed Carozza money, though the trial of the alleged third conspirator, William Kenneth "Crazy" Brooks,32, of the 400 block of Margaret Avenue, is still to be held.

Carozza, who had not been bashful about sparring with prosecutors during his trial, accepted yesterday's verdict with equanimity.

His conviction also brought about his immediate dismissal from his city job as a supervisor of conduit inspection at the Leadenhall Yard -- a job at which, prosecutors said, Carozza once claimed to have worked 60 hours of overtime one week on top of his regular 40 hours -- a schedule,the prosecutor said, that "gives you very little time to run your sharking business, and very little time to keep an eye on your girlfriend."

Carozza had testified that he spent part of one workday sleeping off a hangover after a night of drinking with the victim, Mr. Baker, and the alleged enforcer, Vizzini.

"You can't take Dominic Carozza, the infamous 'Crowbar,' and turn him into a concerned citizen trying to help a homeless waif," prosecutor Timothy J. Doory told the jury in his closing arguments. "You can't turn that man into a hard-working employee of Baltimore City when he was sleeping off a drunk while the city believed he was working."

Mr. Doory asked the jury to convict the two defendants, saying in closing arguments Monday that they and a third man nicknamed "Crazy" had killed Mr. Baker at 4 a.m. June 23 in the 800 block of Lancaster Street, as the victim stood outside their car and "had the audacity" to shout obscenities at Carozza.

"No he didn't," Carozza shot back, as Mr. Doory stood pointing in his face.

Mr. Baker, 42, who had been staying with a relative, was found dead, shot six times, on Pier 7. Hiscar was in a nearby parking lot.

The primary prosecution witness was Carozza's former girlfriend, Marsha Hammons, 36, and her teen-age son and daughter.

It was this woman, according to defense attorney Phillip M. Sutley, who was Carozza's downfall. She, Mr. Sutley said, as well as other prosecution witnesses and Mr. Baker were drug addicts and criminals. Mr. Sutley said that Carozza had given the $2,400 to Ms. Hammons for a car, not knowing she would use it for drugs.

Mr. Sutley called Carozza "a soft touch" who forgave $1,000 debts and, rather than being abusive, attempted to move Ms. Hammons out of the city to help her kick the heroin habit and to help her children.

But Ms. Hammons and Deana Bishop, Mr. Baker's girlfriend, testified that Mr. Baker borrowed the money from Mr. Carozza for the three of them to buy heroin in New York to divide up and sell, with the intention of keeping some of the profits and also repaying Carozza.

Instead, they used the drugs themselves and, unable to repay the money, the women said they put a headache powder in the heroin packages and tried to convince Carozza that they'd been burned in the drug deal.

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