Teen-age killer sentenced to life in prison, no parole

By 17, he had been linked to 6 Baltimore killings, federal prosecutors say

February 20, 1999|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Life has moved fast for Hilton "Dinkles" Thomas. By age 15, he was selling cocaine for one of Baltimore's most notorious drug lords. By 17, federal prosecutors had linked him to six killings.

And yesterday, at age 19, he was sent to prison for the rest of his life.

"It's always tragic to see a young life thrown away," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert R. Harding said after Thomas' sentencing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "But this was a very vicious killer that we were determined to see punished for his crimes."

Thomas was one of the teen-age henchmen employed by Anthony Ayeni Jones, whose $30,000-a-day cocaine and heroin ring has been linked to more than a dozen killings.

Jones, now serving a life sentence, made an infamous name for himself as the man who used a secret code in prison to order executions of federal witnesses.

One of those coded messages -- "that nergy jergy gotta get wergy tergy" -- was relayed to Thomas in February 1997. A few days later, he and an accomplice carried out the instructions by fatally shooting Jones' stepbrother, John Jones, at his East Baltimore home.

Thomas and the accomplice, Timothy "Denasty" Simms, then 17, were paid $3,000 each to carry out the "hit" because Anthony Jones wanted revenge on his stepbrother for cooperating with federal authorities investigating his drug ring. Thomas, a Northern High School dropout, later used his share of the money to buy cocaine and a Chevrolet Caprice.

"One of the more cynical aspects of the Jones organization was that it was willing to use juveniles as murderers," Harding said. "There was a little crew of young kids who would do hits for the organization's leaders."

Moments before being sentenced, Thomas asked Judge William M. Nickerson to overturn the verdicts of the federal jury that convicted him and Simms on Dec. 14, saying his trial wasn't fair.

"I ask that you please overrule the jury's verdict and grant me a new trial, because I've been prejudiced," Thomas said. He added that he objected to being tried alongside another gang member, Jerry "Black Jerry" Williams, who had previously been found guilty of drug conspiracy in the case.

Thomas and Simms were prosecuted as adults, though they were juveniles at the time of the Jones killing. Thomas was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to retaliate against a federal witness and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. His life sentence carries no chance for parole.

Simms was convicted of narcotics conspiracy and faces a mandatory sentence of life without parole under federal guidelines because the crime resulted in at least one death. He will be sentenced later.

Harding and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. Bennett pointed to testimony of witnesses at the three-month trial who described Thomas' involvement in five other slayings. Although federal prosecutors chose not to charge him in those killings, they brought them to the judge's attention to be taken into account at yesterday's sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors linked Thomas to the March 6, 1997, contract killing of Sean "Black Sean" Smith in East Baltimore. A witness, Alonzo "Fonzo" Harper, testified that Thomas admitted shooting Smith after being paid about $5,000.

"Dinkles had told me that he was going out to smoke the boy Sean, and he showed me the Uzi that he had," Harper testified. "I heard some gunshots, and that's when I saw him later, like that day or the next day, and he told me that he got him."

Harper also testified about his knowledge of the John Jones murder, saying Thomas had described how he knocked on the door of Jones' home and pulled out a semiautomatic handgun.

"He said something to the man; the man was distracted and turned his head, or the man just wasn't paying attention, and [Thomas] shot him in the head," Harper testified. "And then Denasty came up and shot him in his body."

The other East Baltimore homicide victims who prosecutors say were linked to Thomas in 1997 include James Caldwell and Purnell Jennings on May 27; Jimmy "Funk" Martin on May 3; and Brian "China Man" Gillespie on Feb. 13.

Pub Date: 2/20/99

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