4 men named in federal charges

Murder, racketeering case could bring death penalty

Rahman associate among victims

January 23, 2004|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Four men who allegedly used profits from Baltimore's drug trade to try to make a name in the rap music business face rarely used federal racketeering charges that could bring the death penalty, federal authorities announced yesterday as they linked the group to as many as five unsolved city homicides.

These include the slaying in March 2002 of an associate of former heavyweight boxing champion Hasim S. Rahman and a woman the man was dating at the time. The group also is charged with a second double killing less than a month later - a crime solved in part with the help of an inadvertent cell phone message.

The bodies of the victims in the first double homicide, Oliver L. McCaffity Jr. and Lisa Renee Brown, both 28, were found March 1, 2002. Each had been shot in the head and was slumped in the front seat of a 1999 Infiniti Q45 owned by Baltimore-born boxer Rahman, who at the time said he had lent his car to the couple and called the killings a "tragedy."

Rahman was not charged in the federal Grand Jury indictments unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio declined to comment at a news conference on any connection Rahman had to the case.

In a statement released through one of his managers, Rahman said he had no ties to the case.

"As I previously stated, I had no involvement in the tragic deaths of the two people found in one of my vehicles," said Rahman, who lives and trains in Las Vegas. "With today's arrests, I have faith in our judicial system, and, hopefully, this matter will be brought to a close."

The four men charged are Willie Edward Mitchell, 25, and Shelly Wayne Martin, 26, both of Randallstown; and Shelton Lee Harris, 21, and Shawn Earl Gardner, 26, both of Baltimore. The men are charged with racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, drug trafficking and armed robbery.

The indictment alleges that Mitchell, also known as "Bo," and Harris, who used the nickname "Little Rock," were responsible for the killings of McCaffity and Brown. All four men are charged in the killing and robbery weeks later of brothers Darryl and Anthony Wyche.

Gardner, known on the street as "Goo," also is charged in the June 7, 2002, killing of Tonya Jones-Spence and the robbery the same day of Darius Spence.

DiBiagio, Maryland's chief federal prosecutor, called the matter an example of his office pursuing the "individuals responsible for making life hell in Baltimore." But he also said the facts of the indictments point to a culture of violence in the city that law enforcement alone cannot solve and demonstrate that criticism of the city's police commissioner for the city's increasing homicide rate is unfair.

Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, who appeared at the news conference with DiBiagio and officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said police are working to bring down the worst predators on Baltimore's streets.

"The untouchables, that's what we're after," Clark said.

The indictment described Mitchell as the head of a Northwest Baltimore drug gang and head of a business called Shake Down Entertainment, which was formed in December 2000 and produced and promoted rap music recordings and events. The business also had a record label, Shystyville.

The indictment alleged that the group's violent operations ran from 1996 through the first of this year. But for almost two years, at least two of the defendants have been in jail. Mitchell and Martin were arrested in May 2002 on state murder charges in connection with the March 24, 2002, killings of Darryl Wyche, 29, and Anthony Wyche, 24. The brothers were found shot to death in a Honda station wagon after what police said was an apparent drug dispute.

Less than two months later, police arrested Mitchell and Martin after a call dialed on a cell phone taken from one of the Wyche brothers inadvertently captured a voice-mail recording of the two men discussing the killings, police said at the time.

Sun staff writer Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.

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