Demolishing homes, not memories Block where teen was killed is torn down, while residents reflect on happier times

July 18, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

City wrecking crews demolished 22 homes along Llewelyn Street yesterday, two weeks after Baltimore police locked up the lone elderly resident on the block and charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy.

The rowhouses on the narrow East Baltimore alley tumbled easily in a heap of dust, splintered wood and cracked red bricks. People who lived nearby watched the demolition, which took a city Public Works Department crew about an hour to finish.

Carolyn Lee, 43, sat on the steps of 1418 Bethel St., at the corner of Llewelyn, staring at the ruined block where she raised three children. The musty scent of the old homes lingered as Lee fixed her gaze on the rubble but saw memories of gleeful children running down a city street where families lived.

"I know they said they were going to do it, but it looks so strange," Lee said. "I had some of the best times of my life there."

The block has been on a city list to be demolished for at least a year. Baltimore housing officials accelerated the process after police charged Albert Sims, 77, a janitor who lived at 1620 Llewelyn, in the July 5 death of Jermaine Jamar Jordan. Sims was the last resident of the block of dilapidated vacant houses.

The shooting occurred after a group of boys riding bicycles along the street reportedly threw a brick at Sims' 1984 Cadillac DeVille, parked near his home. Jermaine, whose parents sent him to a Georgia military school two years ago to escape #F Baltimore's violence, had returned briefly to visit his family.

Sims is accused of shooting Jermaine in the back as the youths fled through a vacant home across the street from Sims' house.

Work crews may have removed the buildings yesterday, but memories of the tragedy will linger, residents said. "Some

residents said they should've knocked it down before all this stuff started happening," said Venus Ware, a 35-year-old Bethel Street resident.

The city estimated the cost of the demolition at $5,000 to $7,000 per house, a minimum of $110,000. The city plans to demolish 50 to 60 more homes in the area as part of a plan to knock down 1,000 old, vacant homes in East Baltimore.

Sims' relatives were told to remove wanted belongings, but family members said last week that the house was in such a shambles that they would leave most of his possessions. Neither Sims' lawyer nor family members could be reached yesterday.

After Sims' arrest, burglars twice broke into his unguarded house, then ransacked his car. The car was towed to an impound lot by police for safekeeping. Police arrested two men and recovered a box of jewelry that had belonged to Sims' late mother.

Damian Tate, 14, rode his bike along the Llewelyn ruins yesterday afternoon and looked over the rubble that city officials expect to clear over the next three weeks.

"It looks better," he said.

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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