Rosedale man found guilty in suffocation killing

April 29, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A Rosedale man was convicted of first-degree murder yesterday for smothering an 81-year-old man in his bed during a robbery at an East Baltimore house where the victim lived for more than 50 years.

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury deliberated for about nine hours before convicting Ralph Raymon Steele, 38, of the 5500 block of Hamilton Ave. in the suffocation death of Willie Gilmore. Mr. Gilmore was slain Oct. 5, 1991, in his home in the 2800 block of E. North Ave.

"He was the first black man to buy a home on North Avenue. And he was killed in it, for nothing more than money," said Mr. Gilmore's daughter, Minner J. Green, who heard the verdict along with about one dozen relatives.

Mr. Gilmore, a former trucker and doughnut factory worker, was killed when Steele broke in through the back door of his home and smothered him with a blanket, said Assistant State's Attorney Cassandra Costley.

An unknown amount of cash and the .38-caliber Colt revolver Mr. Gilmore kept for protection were stolen from the house.

Mr. Gilmore -- who suffered from arthritis and who couldn't defend himself -- "was murdered in his own bed, and it doesn't get any more tragic than that," Ms. Costley said.

Steele's fingerprints matched those found at the crime scene. Steele, who showed no emotion after the verdict was read, was arrested two weeks after the slaying when a Baltimore County police officer found the stolen gun in his car during a traffic stop.

According to court records, Mr. Gilmore, who was 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 123 pounds, was asphyxiated when the killer wrapped a blanket tightly around his head. The victim's bedroom was ransacked and some money and the pistol were taken. But a wallet containing nearly $500 in cash was left lying next to Mr. Gilmore's bed.

Family members present yesterday when the verdict was returned said several hundred people attended Mr. Gilmore's funeral in October.

Steele will be sentenced May 13 before Circuit Judge Elsbeth Bothe.

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