Making a Case

With solid police work, a courageous witness and a little luck, a Baltimore detective sees justice done.

March 10, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Detective Robert Cherry needed a confession, a statement, anything from a young homicide suspect about the execution-style slaying of a South Baltimore father of four young children on a dark playground two months earlier.

Sitting across from the suspect in a small interrogation room, the Baltimore detective moved his chair forward. He detailed the evidence already being arrayed for prosecution, then made his final appeal to Korey Mable, a 20-year-old whom he'd been building a rapport with since the slaying.

"Korey, you're not going home tonight," Cherry said. "We have a warrant for you. We need to hear the truth from you."

Slowly, Mable began describing the shooting of Dwight R. Love, who had done nothing more than walk past a group of young men after a 12-hour work shift late one January night in 2001.

The motive for the shooting was simple, Mable told the detective.

The investigation, though, was not.

The statement Mable would give Cherry implicating himself and a friend in Love's killing was just one small piece of evidence in a homicide case that could have crumbled at dozens of points - just as so many other city murder investigations have in recent years. From witnesses who change their stories to bungling by police detectives, the city's legacy of justice often appears to be an example of Murphy's Law: When things can go wrong, they usually do.

Yet, in this investigation, almost everything broke the right way - thanks to the hard work of Cherry, a brave witness and a lot of luck. The case is scheduled to end today, when Mable and one of his friends, Kenneth Sutton, 22, appear before Circuit Judge John Glynn for sentencing for murder.

The results of nearly two years of labor surprised even a veteran prosecutor. "We had a cooperative witness who refused to be intimidated," said Gerard B. Volatile, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case. "We had a detective who was tenacious and refused to give up. ... This was a very satisfying case. It was very satisfying to finally have one come together and work out the way it should."

The victim

Dwight Love had always been a hard worker, even as a youngster growing up in Jamaica, where he did extra chores around the house and tinkered on his grandfather's truck.

He continued that ethic when he moved to Baltimore as a 12-year-old, even after a childhood accident that blinded him in one eye. At age 16, he was already working in restaurants to earn extra income.

He also had a softer side. He feared bullies. When he was picked on at Lake Clifton High School, he simply dropped out his senior year, his sister said.

"He was fine in school; he actually did well," said Janet Anderson, 28. "But he wouldn't hit them back. He would never raise a hand against someone else. He would rather drop out than get in trouble."

Love also lived up to his name, Anderson said. He was always dating and falling in love. In early 2001, he was living with yet another girlfriend, this one the mother of two of his four children.

On Jan. 29, 2001, Love had left work and was heading home to his Cherry Hill apartment. The 28-year-old made a short stop to visit his children's baby sitter and obtain her Social Security number so he could accurately file his taxes.

"He was meticulous like that," Anderson said.

After picking up the number about 10:30 p.m., Love took a shortcut home, walking between two buildings in an apartment complex.

The witness

Catherine Kelly, 56, was sleeping when she heard a ruckus outside her apartment in the 3400 block of Round Road about 11 p.m.

The apartment complex, a series of red-brick, nondescript buildings, is in the heart of Cherry Hill, one of South Baltimore's tougher neighborhoods. Assaults and robberies - sometimes shootings - are common, even on winter nights.

Kelly peered out a second-floor window and saw four or five young men standing on the back steps of an identical apartment building about 50 feet away, across a strip of grass and two concrete sidewalks. The men appeared to be arguing with another man, who then walked away.

"What you say, yo?" one of those on the steps yelled at the man leaving the group, a person she would later learn was Love.

When he received no answer, the man on the steps turned to one of his friends. "Give me that, yo," the man said. "I'm sick of this."

As Kelly watched, a shorter friend handed something to the angry man, then both walked up to Love, who had almost reached a playground of jungle gyms and slides. The man with the gun fired four times, then stood over Love's fallen body and fired twice more.

Kelly began screaming at the men. "Oh, my God, do not shoot him no more!" Kelly yelled. "He's killing him."

"I see you, I see you!" she screamed at the killer, watching as he handed the weapon back to his buddy and then sprinted into the apartment.

The cop

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