The end of a grim life leaves mark on city

December 16, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

Arthur William Bolden's life ended three weeks ago after a vicious beating on an East Baltimore street, but it wasn't until he became a statistic that anyone gave him a second thought.

Mr. Bolden -- homeless, infected with the human immunodeficiency virus and, by his own family's description, a hopeless drug addict -- was classified yesterday as the year's 336th homicide victim by the state medical examiner. As a result, 1993 is officially the deadliest year in Baltimore's history.

"I guess this is the only way anyone will ever remember him," said his sister, Margo Davis, 35. "He was a hellion. He took and took and took from life, and finally his past caught up with him. It's a very, very sad story."

Mr. Bolden died Nov. 27 at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but it was weeks before autopsy results could determine whether the 40-year-old man died of injuries from the Nov. 3 beating or of natural causes.

"The victim had health problems that had to be excluded as a possible cause of death before it could be established that it was actually his beating injuries that killed him," said Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman.

Mr. Bolden was found on the sidewalk in the 2400 block of E. Biddle St., where one or more attackers had punched and kicked him so severely that he had a brain hemorrhage. His pancreas was also knocked out of place by the attack.

Police said they don't know of a motive for the beating or of any witnesses.

"It was probably someone who he'd done wrong to before, someone who recognized him, maybe somebody he'd stolen from. He had done a lot of things to people," said Ms. Davis, who said her brother had been arrested more than a dozen times for minor drug and petty theft offenses.

"He never spent more than a year at a time in jail in his life. But it seems like the only time we'd ever hear from him was when he was in jail or in the hospital," said Ms. Davis, who is a nursing technician at a Towson nursing home.

She said that although Mr. Bolden was an embarrassment to the family, an eighth-grade dropout who would rather sleep in a vacant building than in a bed, family members never ran out of XTC pity for him.

Once, in the late 1970s after he had been arrested for drug possession and theft, they pooled their money and sent him to Hawaii to a drug treatment program. He stayed there for four years and reached the pinnacle of his life, Ms. Davis said.

"He stopped using drugs. He got a driver's license and a car. He was a different man," Ms. Davis said. "He came back and got a job in a Towson bagel shop. He was doing great.

"But all the people he knew from the streets were still there. They were still on the street corners. And after about six months, he fell back into it again. He never came back."

Ms. Davis lives on East 27th Street in a clean, homey apartment that, despite being in a crime-ridden neighborhood, "would have been a good place for him to lay his head once in a while," she said.

But he preferred living on the street. She said he once told her, "I love to do drugs. I'll do them until I die."

Mr. Bolden's criminal activity centered on stealing from commercial trucks passing through the neighborhood, she said. And he occasionally robbed someone on the street.

"He knew how bad he'd become," his sister said. "He was a slave to his habit. He once said to me, 'Just look at my life. Look what I've become. I'm so tired I just wish I could lay down to die.' "

"That's always made me wonder. What is it in a person that makes them want to do [drugs] until they die?" Ms. Davis said. "Love is blind. I still felt sorry for him. In a way, I'm glad he's laid down to rest. He was no longer living. He was just here."

Police said they had no suspects in the slaying.

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