Friends, family remember slain witness to boy's murder

February 25, 1994|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

During a simple funeral at a West Baltimore church yesterday, Latisha "Jets" Murphy was eulogized as a "hero" who didn't deserve to die.

"She was like a lot of other people who got caught up in the shuffle of life," said the Rev. Willie E. Ray, an activist who crusades against street violence. "If you're not part of the clique, then you're the first one to go."

Mrs. Murphy, 34, was shot twice in the face at close range Feb. 12 as she left her home in the 1700 block of Crystal Ave.

A mother of three, she was a key witness in the slaying of Tauris Johnson, a 10-year-old hit by a stray bullet, as he played football outside his East Baltimore home on Nov. 4.

About 40 people paid their last respects to Ms. Murphy yesterday at the St. Abraham Baptist Church in the 1100 block of W. North Ave.

Johnny Lee Murphy, the slain woman's estranged husband, and their children -- ages 7, 8 and 14 -- sat solemnly on the front pew during the service.

Mrs. Murphy's sky blue casket was open during the service. Four modest floral arrangements sat near the casket. "I always thought she was a pretty woman and she looked very pretty today," said Patrice Hunter, who said she had known Mrs. Murphy.

Mrs. Murphy was buried 12 days after she was slain. The funeral was delayed because her family could not afford the cost of burial expenses.

The slain woman was buried after two city funeral homes stepped forward to help the family. The William C. Brown Community Funeral Home provided the funeral services and the William C. March Funeral Home donated a burial plot at the King Memorial Park in Baltimore County.

"Anybody deserves a burial," Erich March, general manager for March Funeral Home, said yesterday. "The circumstances around her death are a shame."

Mrs. Murphy's slaying occurred in the densely populated Broadway East neighborhood about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12. Neighborhood residents say there are witnesses to the shooting. But so far, none has stepped forward to provide information, city police concede. Police also had a difficult time finding witnesses to Tauris' slaying, which occurred a few blocks from the spot where Mrs. Murphy was killed.

After the boy's death, some neighborhood residents expressed little faith in the police department's commitment to protect them from drug dealers. Mrs. Murphy's slaying has intensified that sentiment.

Tauris was caught in the cross-fire between warring drug dealers, police said. Nathaniel Dawson, 24, of New York was arrested a month after the shooting and charged with the boy's death.

Mrs. Murphy lived with her boyfriend in a drug stash house used by Mr. Dawson and served as a lookout while he dealt drugs on the street, police said.

Police said Mrs. Murphy was serving as a lookout on Nov. 4 and saw the boy fall to the street after a bullet hit him in the head.

After Mrs. Murphy's slaying, city officials and prosecutors said she had turned down an offer for security through a witness protection program.

Homicide detectives have made no arrests and have no suspects in Mrs. Murphy's slaying, police spokesman Sam Ringgold said yesterday.

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