Mother's role questioned 3 men on trial in rape, killing of 7-year-old girl

January 19, 1995|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

As the trial began yesterday in the slaying of a 7-year-old West Baltimore girl, a prosecutor suggested that the victim's mother stood by as two of the three accused murderers took turns raping the child.

An eyewitness will link three men to the Dec. 18, 1992, attack in an apartment in the Lexington Terrace public housing high-rise, and DNA evidence will tie one of them to the sexual assault, said prosecutor Ilene Nathan.

"These three, Lamell Dixon, William Holland and Tremaine Murphy, went into that apartment to take turns with that little girl," the prosecutor told the jury assigned to hear a case that has horrified hardened detectives and criminal trial lawyers. "They silenced her after they took advantage of her."

Still, at times yesterday, the trial seemed to focus nearly as much on the actions of the mother, Peggy C. "Cookie" Allen, as it did on the defendants.

Ms. Nathan told the jury that questions remain unanswered about any part Ms. Allen may have played in the death of her daughter, Tanisha Hope Allen.

"There had to be something she was hiding," Ms. Nathan said, referring to Ms. Allen's assertions that she did not hear the attack even though she said she was sleeping in the next room. "She still won't tell."

A key witness in the trial will say she saw the girl being raped by Mr. Holland while Mr. Dixon and Ms. Allen stood by, the prosecutor said.

Young Hope Allen was found dead in the bedroom of the apartment, wearing only a blue T-shirt that had been pulled up to expose much of her torso.

She had been smothered by an unknown object.

Ms. Allen was originally charged in the murder by police who didn't believe her story that someone broke into her apartment and killed her daughter.

But the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

During her opening statement, Ms. Nathan asked the jury to follow a detective's trail, which eventually led to a star witness who pointed to the three men on trial.

That witness, Raychella Smith, helped break the case when she told police in July 1993 that she went to Ms. Allen's apartment the night of the slaying to demand the return of her Independence card.

She told police that she had to barge past Ms. Allen, who had opened the door slightly, to get into the apartment. Once inside, Ms. Smith happened upon the attack, Ms. Nathan said.

"Lamell Dixon was there in the living room, his pants off . . . " the prosecutor said. "Down the hall, Tanisha Hope Allen was on the floor. William Holland was on top of her."

The prosecutor said Ms. Smith then fled the apartment. She later told police she did not come forward immediately after the incident because she had been threatened by Mr. Dixon and had been attacked in her apartment by Mr. Murphy and another masked man.

All three of the men were still teen-agers when they were arrested last year and charged with first-degree murder and rape.

Lawyers for the men yesterday asked the jury to judge the case on the evidence and not be swept up in emotions aroused by the appalling crime.

Prosecutors said they will seek sentences of life without parole if the men are convicted.

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