Bail hearing for firebombing suspect Drug dispute seen as motive for arson attack.

January 08, 1992|By Alisa Samuels and Richard Irwin | Alisa Samuels and Richard Irwin,Evening Sun Staff

A Jamaican man faced a bail hearing in city District Court today on charges related to the firebombing of an East Baltimore rowhouse that resulted in the deaths of two children and injured a 38-year-old man last week.

Renford Augustus Martin, 32, of the 2200 block of Mura St., was picked up by city homicide detectives about 7:30 a.m. yesterday inside a house in the 4900 block of Todd Ave.

After questioning, Martin was charged about 7 p.m. with two counts of homicide by arson, one count of attempted murder by arson and arson in connection with the firebombing last Friday. Police said he is an unemployed Jamaican who may have arrived here illegally in 1988.

The apparent motive was retaliation in a drug dispute with a visitor who was in the house that was bombed in the 2000 block of Federal St., Homicide Detective Walter Akers said.

Akers declined to identify the target of the firebomb, but he said it was not Leroy Bess Jr., 36, of the 3000 block of Rayner Ave. He was seriously injured when he was forced to jump from a third-floor front bedroom window to the pavement.

Bess had been trying to save two children who were killed in the fire, Reva Shalita Moore, 5, and her brother, Anthony Jamar Moore, 4. They became the city's first fire fatalities of the new year.

Bess was listed in fair and stable condition today at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore with head, leg, shoulder and back injuries, a hospital spokesman said.

Police said Martin also has been charged with possession of narcotics and weapons violations, following a search by police of his home yesterday morning while they were looking for him.

Martin became a prime suspect in the case after police received information that allegedly linked him to someone who was in the house at the time of the fire.

Following his arrest, Martin was taken to police headquarters and formally charged. He was then taken to the Eastern District station, where he was held overnight without bail pending a bail review hearing today before a District Court judge.

Akers said Martin appears to be the only suspect.

Police didn't say how they learned about Martin's alleged involvement.

"We had information that two men may have been involved," Akers said, "but it now appears that two men seen running from the scene were bystanders who had nothing to do with the firebombing."

Akers also said that an Oldsmobile seen driving away at the time of the fire appears not to have been involved.

Akers said three men were inside the house when a container filled with gasoline was thrown through the front window and exploded on the living room floor.

When police raided the Mura Street home yesterday morning, they couldn't find Renford Martin, but did find two other Jamaicans, one of them Martin's brother.

They were identified as Lennroy Augustus Martin, 30, and Duane Dundas, 20, both believed to be illegal immigrants.

Police said the men were each charged with narcotics and weapons violations and were also held overnight at the Eastern District station pending a bail hearing before a District Court commissioner.

In the Mura Street house, police found a 9mm handgun, a shotgun, several rounds of ammunition and more than 30 bags of cocaine, Akers said.

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