Baltimore prosecutors dropped 10-year-old attempted murder charges yesterday against local rapper Otis Watford, whose stage name is "Tuff Lungs," pointing to a problem with a key witness: A woman he was accused of shooting is now his wife, the mother of his two children, and refuses to testify against him.
Watford was charged with trying to kill Kim Kelly and her then-boyfriend, Maurice Chase, at Kelly's home in the 4200 block of Prudence St. in Brooklyn after an argument in 1993.
A warrant was issued for his arrest after the assault, but police never picked up Watford, now 30, of the 2300 block of Norfolk St.
He surrendered this year after a Sun reporter who was researching an article about his rap career discovered he had an open warrant.
At the time, he was scheduled to headline a "Rappin' Russian" concert at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum as part of Baltimore's Vivat! Festival. He did not perform at the concert.
Watford, a barber at Classic Cuts on Park Avenue, said yesterday that he is not the man who shot Kelly and Chase.
"It was a misunderstanding," Watford said.
He now has three children, two of them with Kelly, ages 8 and 4.
Kelly, who was shot in the right thigh, told prosecutors in 1993 that Watford shot her. This year, she changed her story and said she wasn't sure what happened, said prosecutor Jenifer Layman, who dropped the charges. "She told me that she doesn't know who had the handgun," Layman said.
Two other witnesses in the case could not be located -- including Chase, who was shot in the abdomen, according to Layman.
Without any witnesses, Layman said, the state had no case.
In addition to the two counts of attempted murder, Watford was charged with assault, using a handgun during a crime, carrying a handgun and unlawful discharge of a firearm.
According to charging documents, Watford was visiting Kelly, then 24, at her home about 10 p.m. when Chase, then 29, arrived. An argument ensued, and Watford "pulled out a silver revolver and shot Chase at point-blank range," the documents said.
Kelly was shot in the thigh when she tried to intervene, according to documents.
Watford said his legal trouble has hurt his career, but he is still performing. He did a show at Mondawmin Mall a few months ago.
He said he used to wear a bullet around his neck, but he has since traded it for a cross.
"My whole life is my family, my children and my career," Watford said. "I encourage the young kids to stay on the right track. It's a crazy world."