Lucas says police vowed to frame her for arson She recalls deaths of 6 of her children BALTIMORE CITY

April 23, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

In a dingy little room in the bowels of the Baltimore jail, Tonya Lucas met the press for the first time yesterday to charge that city homicide detectives told her they intended to frame her for the murder of six of her children.

"When Detective [Gary] Childs and Detective [Bertina] Silver locked me up they told me that they knew that I didn't do this but they was going to send me away for the rest of my life," said Ms. Lucas, whose first trial on arson and murder charges ended with a hung jury. "These detectives are not out to get the person or the people who did this to my kids.

"I just think it's totally unfair for the justice system to keep holding me incarcerated for crimes that they know that I did not do."

That charge brought an angry denial from Detective Silver, who said, "She wants to make us look like the bad guys. . . . It's nothing personal. We just have a job to do."

During the 40-minute interview, Ms. Lucas repeatedly accused an alcoholic man who had temporarily lived in her East Eager Street home of setting the July 7, 1992, fire. She accused another man, who testified that he saw her start the fire, of lying.

She sobbed while recalling when hospital officials told her the children were dead. She said she has contemplated suicide while being held in the Baltimore City Detention Center on murder and arson counts.

"When I came in here, I didn't have the will to go on living," she said. "I mean, I didn't have the will to go on living the day that this [fire] was happening.

"I remember them telling me that four of my kids had died and two of them were on the critical list. I was just laying on the floor screaming and hollering and crying, saying that I didn't want to live anymore because I wanted my children," she added. "When I came here I was put up in isolation. I had everything taken from me and I was put in a paper nightgown."

She said her one surviving child, a 9-year-old son, has visited her frequently in jail.

Ms. Lucas, who remains jailed without bail while awaiting her retrial in June, said she is in protective custody, with her cell in a block with two other women. She says some of her fellow inmates have become convinced of her innocence.

"When I first came in here it was a whole lot of people saying that I did it, but since my trial went on it's a whole lot of people saying that they're praying for me and they believe in me because they can't believe that any mother would do something like that."

During her trial, Ms. Lucas' lawyer argued that Andre Moore, a state's witness and a former boarder at the house, was more likely the arsonist. The lawyer, Mark Van Bavel, noted that tests showed Mr. Moore had traces of petroleum distillate on his clothing.

During yesterday's interview, Ms. Lucas, 29, reiterated those arguments, adding that Mr. Moore flunked a polygraph test when asked whether he was involved in the fire. Mr. Van Bavel also has mentioned those polygraph test results during court hearings.

Ms. Lucas conceded that she couldn't be sure that her former boarder had set the fire, saying, "No I never seen no one set any fire but I do believe he set the fire.

"I know when I jumped out that window people in the crowd was screaming that he set my house on fire, they said they seen him running from the front of the house to the back of the house. That's why I have always said Andre Moore did it, because the people in the neighborhood said that he did it. They seen him do it."

Ms. Lucas invited reporters to interview her at the jail. Wearing a tan pantsuit and a black blouse, Ms. Lucas was led handcuffed and shackled into a room with a desk, four chairs and a filing cabinet. She carried an envelope containing photographs of her children. "I want people to see my kids as they were when they was living and happy," she explained as she displayed the pictures to reporters. "I loved my kids and my kids loved me."

Ms. Lucas denied abusing her 2-year-old son, Gregory Cook, who weighed 10 pounds and showed signs of broken bones when he died in the fire. She said the baby was underweight from the time he was born prematurely.

The child-abuse charges were not considered by the jury that voted 10-2 to convict Ms. Lucas in the trial that ended in mistrial. Prosecutor Jack I. Lesser said yesterday a hearing has been set for May 25 to consider his request that the child-abuse charges be included in the June murder trial.

"I felt like Detective Childs and Detective Silver is out on this thing over what they feel like about my son Gregory," Ms. Lucas said. "That's why they are out to get me for something I did not do.

Of her retrial, she said, "I will always look forward to clearing my name but I do not look forward to my next trial because, I mean, my first trial is where I almost had a nervous breakdown."

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