2 found guilty of murdering trio of friends

Execution-style shootings on east-side steps killed men `just in wrong place'

Victim's brother was the target

Prosecutors plan to seek life terms without parole

February 11, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Amid hysterical sobs from family members, a Baltimore jury found two men guilty yesterday of the execution-style murder of three hard-working, lifelong best friends who died because they were "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Circuit Court jury deliberated five hours before deciding that William Faulkner and Richard James walked up to the victims and shot them each once in the head from 2 feet away.

Faulkner and James, both 23, were found guilty of 30 criminal charges, including three counts each of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Victims Thomas Barnes Jr., Frederick Jenkins and ElJermaine Street, all 28, were sitting on the steps of a Southeast Baltimore home July 7 when they were attacked. The intended victim was Derek Jenkins, 24, a younger brother of Frederick Jenkins, according to testimony.

The victims and the defendants are from the same Dundalk neighborhood, near Turners Station. Prosecutors said Derek Jenkins had a long-standing dispute with the defendants and that the fatal shootings were partly the result of dirty looks that were exchanged at a bar that day.

"You had two people with an agenda," said Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Goldberg. "This is how some people handle their problems. There is no rational explanation for it."

When the verdict was read yesterday, several members of the victims' families cried out in joy at the same time members of the defendants' families screamed in anguish.

Armed sheriff's deputies escorted the distressed people out of the courtroom. Minutes later, one of them - a sister of James - was wailing so loudly in a hallway outside the court that Judge John N. Prevas asked that she be taken to another floor of the courthouse.

The room had settled down by the time the jury finished reading the long verdict.

"My family can sleep in peace," said Antonio Barnes, brother of Thomas Barnes, a Social Security Administration clerk and a former National Guardsman. "We don't have to worry about these guys being on the street anymore."

Goldberg said Faulkner and James were trying to settle a score on the night of the murders.

The younger Jenkins was with the victims when they were shot, but he escaped unharmed. He testified during the four-day trial that Faulkner and James were the assailants.

Bad feelings had been sparked the day of the shooting between Derek Jenkins and the defendants at a bar, Goldberg said. Faulkner and one of Derek Jenkins' friends exchanged dirty looks, although no words were exchanged, she said.

`In the wrong place'

Hours later, the victims and Derek Jenkins were sitting on the steps of an apartment complex in the 1300 block of Bonsal St., near O'Donnell Heights.

The three friends had been chatting and catching up on each others' lives, Goldberg said. Jenkins had just returned from a tour of duty in Kuwait, where he was a computer specialist in Operation Enduring Freedom, and the group usually got together when he came home on leave.

Just before midnight, two men approached, wearing hooded sweat shirts pulled over their heads. Without saying a word, one fired three shots from a revolver, Goldberg said.

"They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said of the victims. "Now you have three good people dead and five lives ruined."

The three victims had played cards and written rap lyrics together as they were growing up. They all graduated from Dundalk High School in 1992.

Frederick Jenkins, who was married last year, had been scheduled to fly to Germany to see his wife.

Street, the father of a 3-year-old girl, was a forklift operator in Dundalk and was engaged to be married.

Barnes, the Social Security Administration clerk, had recently returned home after his parents became ill.

Seeking life terms

Prosecutors will seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole for James and Faulkner. Sentencing is scheduled for March 13.

Detective Donald V. Bradshaw, the lead investigator in the case, said the crime was "one of the worst cases" he has ever handled, noting that it devastated a community.

"There's no winners in this," Bradshaw said. "Hopefully, the verdict will give the families a little bit of closure."

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