Bail denied after killing 77-year-old janitor charged with murder in shooting of teen

'He's scared confused'

Suspect complained of harassment by youngsters

July 08, 1998|By Peter Hermann and Dennis O'Brien | Peter Hermann and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 77-year-old janitor accused of fatally shooting a teen-ager in a crime that has resparked a debate about children and harassment of the elderly sat silent yesterday as a Baltimore District Court judge ordered him jailed until his trial.

The no-bail order came hours after police had reattached the door to the suspect's two-story rowhouse and investigated a broken window on his 1984 Cadillac DeVille -- vandalism that occurred in the wake of his arrest.

Albert Sims, wearing a standard prison-issue bright yellow jumpsuit, appeared fatigued during the five-minute hearing, held via a video hook-up between the courtroom and the Central Booking and Intake Center, where he is being held.

The defendant, charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 15-year-old Jermaine Jordan, kept his head down at the brief proceeding.

"He's scared. He's confused," said his lawyer, Mitchell A. Greenberg, after the hearing. "This is a man who knows nothing about the criminal justice system that he's now involved in."

Greenberg said his client was being jailed in isolation for his own safety.

"You're talking about a neighborhood that's up in arms here, and justifiably so, because a child has died," Greenberg said.

Jermaine was shot once in the back Sunday evening as he ran through a vacant rowhouse in the 1600 block of Llewelyn Ave. to escape a man police said fired twice from an Astra .25 caliber handgun while standing at his house across the street.

Police said the man was angry because someone had thrown a brick at his car.

Sims, the lone occupant of a city block filled with condemned homes, had complained to a friend of young people harassing him.

A few hours before Sims appeared in court, Jermaine's family gathered at March Funeral Home and planned a Monday burial for the boy, whom they had sent to a Georgia military school two years ago to escape the violence on Baltimore streets.

"I just don't understand this whole thing," said Jermaine's uncle, Neil Cole-El, 32. "How did this happen and why? We didn't just lose a child here -- we lost part of the city. Everyone is just going wild."

The case has forced the city to revisit painful memories from a similar shooting four years ago, when Nathaniel Hurt fatally shot 13-year-old Vernon Holmes, who was among a group of children vandalizing his car. Gov. Parris N. Glendening commuted Hurt's five-year prison sentence in December after he had served 14 months.

Sims, who works as a janitor for Mullan Enterprises Inc., a development company in Towson, apparently has no family in Maryland. Originally from Georgia, he has lived in Baltimore since 1964, and Greenberg said he is virtually penniless.

Greenberg argued that bail should be set at an unspecified amount, telling Judge Ben C. Clyburn that his 77-year-old client is not a danger to the community or "in any way a flight risk."

But Assistant State's Attorney Dana Karangelen pointed out that Sims had barricaded himself in his house after the shooting and that officers from the Quick Response Team had to break down his door, then found a number of firearms inside. The judge then denied Sims bail.

Keith Griffin, 32, who once lived across the street from Sims, said his friend and former neighbor had repeated run-ins with derelict children from the neighborhood.

"I have no idea what happened," said Griffin, who lives in Randallstown and was rebuilding a porch on a house in Sims' neighborhood yesterday. "The kids around here are a bunch of animals. I guess he just had enough. I guess he snapped. It's not right to go out and shoot somebody, but how much can you take?"

Reggie Cunningham, 8, who lives near Sims, admitted yesterday that he threw rocks at Sims two week ago. Asked why, he just shook his head. "Just to be dumb," he quietly muttered.

His mother, Jean Sanchez, 33, said the boy told her Sims had JTC threatened him. She said she spoke with Sims and punished Reggie. "I told my son not to throw rocks at people anymore," she said. "He was wrong to throw rocks."

Police yesterday said officers have responded to Sims' house three times in the past three months, on May 29 for a break-in and on June 8 and 16 for reported burglaries.

The front door of Sims' home was forced in and his car's driver's side window was smashed Monday evening or yesterday morning.

In the June 8 break-in, Sims reported a burglary in which $304 in tools and other items were taken, including a 2 1/4 -ton floor jack and a 40-channel citizen's band radio.

On June 16, Eastern District Officer Ed Bailey noted that Sims' front door had been forced open and his kitchen ransacked. Reported missing were videotapes.

Police returned to Sims' home yesterday for the new vandalism to his front door and car.

A view inside the house through the open front door revealed a living room cluttered with newspapers and books stacked almost ceiling high. Photos of children were tacked to one wall, and a large checkerboard was on the couch.

Officers Thomas McWilliams and Derek Ledbetter reattached the front door, as Officer Charles Klein studied the splintered wood and broken glass. "Did you expect it to stay in one piece?" he said, noting the anger from some in the neighborhood.

Williams, Jermaine's aunt, said she wants the comparisons to Hurt's case stopped so the city's focus stays on her slain nephew and not a sympathetic suspect.

"They keep showing Nathaniel Hurt," complained Jermaine's aunt, Veronica Williams. "He killed a boy, and he's out selling snowballs. How can we teach youngsters not to pick up guns if the older people are shooting people and getting away with it?"

Jermaine's wake is scheduled for 9: 30 a.m. Monday at the March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave. A funeral service follows at 10 a.m. Burial is at the Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills, where the family has a plot.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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