Inmate charged in '86 death of Woodlawn man

DNA retest leads to murder count in robbery of couple

June 15, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police charged a 41-year-old prison inmate yesterday with first-degree murder and assault in a brutal 1986 robbery in which a man was shot to death and his wife wounded in their Woodlawn home.

Leon Copeland - incarcerated at the Maryland Department of Corrections on unrelated convictions - was charged after a preserved sample of DNA linked him to the killing of Lawrence Gregory Dye and the attack on Edna Dye, police said.

It was one of 13 open homicide cases in Baltimore County from 1986, but the Dye case stood out on the list.

The Dyes were parents of two young sons, who were not home when the attack occurred, Aug. 15 that year. The couple were returning home at 10:30 p.m. when a man wearing a ski mask and carrying a handgun came out of the bushes and confronted them in front of their house in the 5700 block of Pembroke Ave. He ordered them inside and demanded their money at gunpoint. The couple complied.

"She told me he said, `Just do what I tell you and I won't hurt you,'" said neighbor Helen Craig yesterday.

According to charging documents, the couple were forced upstairs, where Edna Dye was ordered to tie her husband to the bed. She complied.

Then, police said, the gunman shot 38-year-old Gregory Dye twice in the head, killing him in front of his wife. The man then attacked Edna Dye, police said, searched the home for money and jewelry and, as he was leaving, shot the woman once behind the ear, leaving her unconscious.

When Edna Dye awoke, she made her way across the street to Craig's house, and Craig called police.

Craig remembers Dye, a friendly woman who volunteered in the neighborhood and worked as a computer analyst in Woodlawn, appearing at her door shocked, with dried blood in her hair.

"She said, `We've been robbed, and I think Greg is dead,'" Craig said. "Once they took her to the hospital, she never came back. We packed her things and found a Realtor. She never came back to this block."

Officials said the only apparent motive was robbery. Early in the investigation, authorities conducted an extensive search.

Cpl. Vickie Warehime, a county police spokeswoman, said detectives had talked with Copeland "throughout the investigation." Several months ago, they sent a sample of DNA from the crime scene and a blood sample from Copeland to a private lab, where a match was made.

Detectives routinely monitor the advance of DNA technology and had recently discovered new technology was available to test the sample, Warehime said.

Copeland, who according to court records is serving time for rape and breaking and entering convictions, is being held without bail on the latest charges.

Edna Dye declined to comment.

Craig and neighbor Pamela Leverette talked about the effect the incident on their neighborhood.

Gone are days when Gregory Dye "used to go outside on the porch and joke about their days at Morgan State" University, said Leverette, who knew Dye when he was a college football star. Or when the neighborhood children - including the Dyes' sons, then 10 and 15 - would play football.

"When it is quiet outside or I am coming home late," she said, "I think about it."

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