Authorities publicly aired for the first time yesterday allegations that a West Baltimore drug dealer ordered the fatal shooting of bail bondsman Angelo Garrison Sr. -- a shooting that also killed Mr. Garrison's 3-year-old son.
During a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, prosecutors alleged that convicted heroin dealer James "Ricky" Rogers ordered Mr. Garrison killed because he was afraid the bondsman would offer testimony that could have implicated Rogers' relatives in his drug ring.
Rogers -- who was also accused of gouging out the eye of a fellow jail inmate for serving him cold French toast -- denied having anything to do with the killing of Mr. Garrison or the boy, Angelo Garrison Jr.
After hearing testimony, including that of another former inmate who said Rogers confessed to him his role in the killing, Judge Marvin J. Garbis said, "I'm not prepared to make a finding either way in the Angelo Garrison case. . . . Maybe the truth will never come out. Maybe it will come out."
Judge Garbis sentenced Rogers, who had been convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin and possession of heroin with intent to distribute, to the maximum penalty -- two concurrent terms of life without parole.
Mr. Garrison, 23, and his son were ambushed April 18, 1993, outside Mr. Garrison's bail bond business in the 200 block of Park Ave. As Mr. Garrison lay mortally wounded on the ground, another bullet went through the rear passenger window of his car and struck the boy in the head.
Prosecutors were unable to convince a Baltimore Circuit Court jury that the boy was intentionally shot. The boy's mother, Monica McNutt, witnessed the shooting and identified 21-year-old Levon Stokes as the assailant.
The jury found Stokes guilty of first-degree murder in the bail bondsman's death and guilty of manslaughter in the boy's death. Stokes was sentenced in December to life without parole for the elder Garrison's murder, but authorities continued to look into whether Baltimore drug figures were involved in the slayings.
Authorities were told that the killings may have stemmed from a love triangle, but several factors -- in addition to the brazen nature of the attack -- suggested that the shootings may also have been drug-related.
Mr. Garrison, who was on probation for a 1990 felony drug conviction and was awaiting trial on drug distribution charges when he was murdered, also was on a list of witnesses and others whose names could surface during a drug trial then under way in federal court. Federal prosecutors said yesterday that Mr. Garrison had declined to be a trial witness.
Drug activity involving Mr. Garrison had been described during the trial, in which Rogers and two other men were convicted of being members of a West Baltimore heroin ring that operated from the Underground Nightclub.
Rogers, whose mother is a sister-in-law of convicted drug kingpin Melvin "Little Melvin" Williams, issued death threats vTC against witnesses in the case, authorities alleged.
In September, a Baltimore man awaiting trial on theft charges in Talbot County contacted city homicide detectives to say Rogers had admitted a role in the Garrison slayings, authorities said.
David Copperthite, a Baltimore narcotics prosecutor assigned to the Rogers case, said the inmate was prompted to come forward by the child's death.
"It's not Angelo Garrison Sr. that this case centers on," he said. "It's the child eating an ice cream cone in the back seat of the car who ended up dead."
Mr. Copperthite said the inmate's story was credible because he knew details of the case that had not been made public.
The prosecutor told the court that Rogers contracted Stokes through a middle man, Antonio McKiver, who he said offered a discount because he was the person in a love triangle involving Mr. Garrison.
McKiver, described in court papers as an enforcer for a city drug gang, is awaiting sentencing on federal drug charges, federal authorities said.
Prosecutors yesterday also alleged that Rogers had called for the murder of a witness against him in the federal drug trial.
To bolster this allegation, prosecutors produced a letter, purportedly written by Rogers to a leader of the so-called Jamaican Black Mafia heroin ring, asking him to find the witness and "hit his head for me . . ."
After yesterday's hearing, Ms. McNutt, the mother of Angelo Jr., said she still struggles with accepting the way her son died.
Ms. McNutt says she's certain Angelo Sr. would not have wanted his innocent son to be drawn into the violence.
Of Angelo Jr., she said, "He took the hurt like his father did."