Special grand jury probing 1990 murder investigation Conduct of police officials targeted

October 22, 1992|By David Simon | David Simon,Staff Writer Staff writer Ann Lolordo contributed to this article.

A special city grand jury is hearing testimony about the performance of Baltimore police officials and prosecutors during 1990 murder investigation that involved state Sen. Larry Young, according to sources familiar with the grand jury probe.

Specifically, the grand jury is looking into whether high-ranking police officials may have attempted to thwart the investigation by compromising the role of a confidential informant, the sources say.

Police sources say Senator Young is regarded as a central figure, but not a suspect in the investigation into the May 1990 death of Marvin Moore, a West Baltimore minister and close friend of the senator. Mr. Young, along with another friend and two relatives of the minister, found Mr. Moore dead in his West Franklin Street apartment.

The probe into the slaying effectively collapsed after city homicide detectives and FBI agents lost contact with an associate of Mr. Young, who was an undercover informant in the homicide investigation, the sources confirm.

In trying to establish the victim's activities before his death, police discovered that Mr. Young's account of when he last saw the victim conflicted with the informant's statements to investigators, the sources said.

Convened by Circuit Judge Kenneth L. Johnson, the special grand jury has in the last two weeks subpoenaed detectives involved in the murder probe.

The panel began its wide-ranging inquiry by looking at the quality of Baltimore's drug enforcement efforts, but it recently turned its attention to possible police misconduct in the handling of investigations, according to sources.

In the Moore case, the panel has questioned detectives about the actions of Col. George Christian, the commander of the Baltimore department's criminal investigations division.

Sources said the grand jury has been told that Colonel Christian ordered homicide detectives to tell him the name of their informant during the 1990 investigation. They refused initially, citing security concerns and noting that such a request was irregular, according to federal and local law enforcement sources. But Colonel Christian insisted, citing orders from Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods, according to the sources.

Colonel Christian declined to be interviewed for this article. Commissioner Woods also declined to speak to The Sun, but told a television reporter yesterday that "There are no improprieties on the part of investigators. . . . There are no improprieties."

Senator Young said yesterday that he had just learned of the grand jury's investigation after calls from the media. He said he stood by his original statement to police and declined to comment further.

The detectives handling the murder investigation, Sgt. Gary Childs and Detectives Marvin Sydnor and Bertina Silver of the homicide unit, declined to comment on the case, as did their supervisor, Lt. Robert Stanton.

Informant disappears

Investigators' best hope to solve the murder of Mr. Moore effectively ended when the informant disappeared, only days after Colonel Christian demanded his name, the sources said. For two years, the informant's whereabouts -- as well as the reasons behind his disappearance -- were unknown.

"We don't know if he was bought off, scared off or ran away for reasons that are unrelated to any of this," said one law enforcement source two months ago. "But until he shows up, there's no way to know what happened."

The informant has not yet been located by city police or the FBI, but last month a man who said he was the informant was interviewed by a reporter for The Sun.

The man, who declined to fully identify himself during two telephone interviews, said he did not believe his role as an informant had been revealed.

Instead, he said, he dropped out of contact two years ago because of frustration with the FBI agents handling him. He said the FBI, whose agents he described as impatient and uncautious, was insistent that he question the senator directly about the murder without talking about extraneous matters.

"I couldn't talk to him like that. He'd have definitely known something was up," the man said. "They wouldn't listen."

The man said that before he vanished, he felt that Mr. Young no longer trusted him. "Even though he never said anything to me, I got the impression that Larry was looking at me differently," the man said.

Sources said that the FBI agents handling the informant were told by local detectives of Colonel Christian's actions and warned that their probe may have been compromised. But after failing to locate the informant, the agents did not look into the possibility of misconduct by Baltimore police officials.

FBI officials refuse to discuss the matter. In a prepared statement, Andrew Manning, spokesman for the bureau's local office, said the agency "has a long-standing policy neither to confirm nor deny investigations involving possible public corruption unless someone is charged."

Officers testify

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