Man, 38, is convicted in the slaying of an 81-year-old Victim killed in North Avenue home, where he lived more than 50 years.

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

A Rosedale man has been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of an 81-year-old man who was smothered 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 yesterday before convicting Ralph Raymon Steele, 38, of the 5500 block of Hamilton Ave. in the 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 had 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.

"He had been a hard-working man his whole life. No one could believe he was deprived of his final days by someone who wanted to kill him," Ms. Green said.

Steele will be sentenced May 13 before Judge Elsbeth Bothe.

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