Police believe Shotto target Warehouse owner focus of investigation.

September 06, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff Bruce Reid and Richard Irwin contributed to this story.

In Evening Sun stories last week about the slayings of two businessmen in Baltimore, the relationship between John R. "Jack" Shotto and Baltimore International Warehousing Co. was incorrectly reported.

Shotto was an independent consultant handling sales and marketing for the warehouse, according to a lawyer for the owner of the warehouse.

The Evening Sun regrets the error.

Police believe the owner of a warehouse was the intended target of a gunman, who killed the businessman and a man he was talking to as the victims stood on a Broening Highway parking lot.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION vhB

Shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, John R. "Jack" Shotto, 52, of the 1600 block of Rolling Road near Bel Air, and Raymond Nicholson, 38, of Glenn Dale in Prince George's County, were gunned down outside Shotto's Baltimore International Warehousing Co. at the Maritime Center at Point Breeze near Dundalk.

Police said Shotto is the focus of their investigation because as soon as he appeared on the parking lot, a car began moving toward him and a gunman, riding in the passenger seat, began firing.

"Obviously, it looks like they were waiting for him to appear," Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman, said yesterday.

Hill said police are investigating the theory that the shooting was related to Shotto's business dealings. Federal officials met with homicide detectives at the U.S. attorney's office for an hour yesterday regarding the shooting, city detectives said today.

Shotto's interests were in shipping, warehousing and freight, police said. He also had been president of the defunct Meridian Ship Agency Inc. on Light Street.

Hill said police believe the shootings may have been a contract killing. The assailants did not say a word or try to rob the victims, police said.

Witnesses described the gunman as a white man in his 50s with gray-blond hair that stuck out around his ears. The driver of the car also was white but police had no further description.

Witnesses said the two men had been sitting in a rust-colored sedan on the parking lot. When Shotto and Nicholson appeared, the car moved toward them and the gunman fired a large-caliber handgun.

Shotto, shot in the left temple, died at the scene.

Nicholson, a vice president of Hechinger Co., was shot in the back. He died at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday after undergoing surgery at Francis Scott Key Medical Center.

Shotto and Nicholson had just finished meeting with three businessmen about Hechinger possibly leasing space in the warehouse.

City Homicide Detective Christopher Graul said slugs removed from the bodies of Shotto and Nicholson were deformed, the result of striking bone. Graul said the slugs would have to be examined further by crime laboratory technicians before the caliber is known. He said a composite drawing of the gunman from information supplied by witnesses could be ready for circulation in a day or two.

The Hechinger Co., a mid-Atlantic lumber and hardware chain, is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assailants who killed Nicholson, "a beloved employee," said Carolyn Bodie, a company spokeswoman.

"The reward is out of loyalty to Raymond Nicholson and his family, and Hechinger has strong interests in seeing the people responsible brought to justice," Bodie said.

Company officials "can't imagine a motive" for Nicholson's slaying, Bodie said.

Anyone with information can call Metro Crime Stoppers at 301-276-8888.

Shotto, originally from upstate New York, moved to the Glenwood community south of Bel Air about 17 years ago, friends said. He had three children and three grandchildren.

Nicholson, a father of three children, ages 5, 8 and 11, began working for Hechinger's after graduation from high school in Beltsville 19 years ago, friends said.

Port sources said no one seemed to know why Shotto's shipping firm failed, other than it was a victim of a general decline in the industry. Shotto was president of Meridian, an 8- to 10-year-old company that chartered space on ocean-going vessels.

Federal bankruptcy court records show that Meridian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors on Aug. 20, 1990, listing debts of about $2 million and assets of about $200,000. Records said Meridian owed money to companies in England, New Zealand, Virginia and elsewhere.

On April 4, Meridian filed Chapter 7 papers under the bankruptcy law, a liquidation.

Timothy McCormack, an attorney who represented the company the bankruptcy filing, said Meridian needed a great deal of credit to stay afloat. "It couldn't get credit once it filed for Chapter 11," he said.

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