Court papers detail life of crime, drugs and violence

Man, 32, now paralyzed, sentenced in 1991 killing

April 29, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

Jerome McCardell pleaded guilty yesterday to killing a man in December 1991, when he was just 17.

So much in his life has changed since then, save for a constant revealed by his criminal records and in court documents: drugs and violence.

McCardell was known in the early 1990s on the streets of Baltimore as MAC-10, a kind of gun. About the time of the murder, he became a father and, as part of a rap group called Young Black Mafia, released a cassette tape. He posed thuggishly in a promotional photo, aiming a .45-caliber handgun topped with a laser.

Now 32 years old and paralyzed by a gunshot, McCardell sat in his wheelchair yesterday and listened to a Baltimore Circuit Court judge sentence him to 80 years in prison, though through his plea agreement, he will serve no more than 20.

McCardell's relationship with his son, born in 1991, has changed over the years, too. In 14 years, the boy has turned from his father's victim to his father's co-defendant.

The elder McCardell was arrested in November 1992 for almost killing his son during a beating so severe that parts of the boy's pancreas and bowel had to be removed. Convicted of child abuse, McCardell was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

An incident this year shows that father and son have reunited. Police and prosecutors say McCardell and the now 14-year-old boy tried to carjack and threatened to kill a man they had hired as a taxi driver.

Assistant State's Attorney Theresa M. Shaffer dropped the carjacking charge against McCardell as part of the guilty plea in the murder case, but the teen is still facing charges related to the incident in juvenile court.

By the time he was a teenager, the elder McCardell was embroiled in a lifestyle that included guns, violence and drugs, according to court documents and prosecutors.

He used a woman's home on Woodland Avenue to package and sell drugs, and on Dec. 9, 1991, Thomas Pratt came to the door looking for a "jug" of cocaine.

In court yesterday, Shaffer gave this account of what happened next:

There were no ready jugs, so people in the home persuaded Pratt to buy a vial of cocaine. Later, unhappy with his purchase, Pratt came back to complain.

McCardell grabbed a 9 mm handgun and escorted him off the property and into a nearby alley. Moments later, several gunshots were heard, and then McCardell emerged from the alley alone.

He walked past a man who was outside and told him, "Let me burn your ass like I did that boy in the alley."

Back at the Woodland Avenue home, McCardell passed the gun to someone with instructions to "get rid of it."

At the time, police could not find the woman who lived in the home - a crucial witness.

In May 1992, McCardell was shot and in a drug-turf dispute near that home at Park Heights and Woodland avenues.

McCardell's November 1992 arrest for beating his son was followed by a guilty plea and a stint in prison, though yesterday it was unclear exactly how much time he served.

Over the past few years, McCardell, who most recently lived at Eldorado Avenue in West Baltimore, amassed half a dozen arrests.

McCardell pleaded guilty yesterday to attempted robbery from a January 2004 incident in the 700 block of Beaverbrook Road in North Baltimore. McCardell approached a man fixing his car, pointed a handgun and demanded money. The man and his wife were able to wrestle the gun and a cell phone away from McCardell, who fled and was arrested later.

A month later, an officer McCardell encountered on Park Heights Avenue arrested him on charges of drug possession after finding suspected marijuana and heroin on him.

McCardell was seriously injured in what prosecutors called a "retaliatory shooting" April 15, 2004, at Pimlico Road and Wylie Avenue. He was hospitalized until that November, when he returned to his home in a wheelchair.

About that time, the Police Department's cold case squad was reinvestigating the 1991 shooting death of Pratt. Detectives found the woman who lived on Woodland Avenue - where Pratt had encountered McCardell - and she gave a taped statement in early 2005.

McCardell was arrested Jan. 13, 2005 on first-degree murder charges. In April, a judge reduced his bail to $300,000. McCardell posted it and was released from jail.

Although he was facing charges in three separate cases, including a murder, McCardell would be arrested one more time.

With his 14-year-old son at his side on Feb. 18, McCardell flagged down a car in the Park Heights area and gave the driver $15 to take them to the 400 block of East 25th St., court documents said.

When they arrived, the elder McCardell asked the driver to take them to another location. The driver refused. McCardell said, "If you don't take me where I want to go, I will kill you," according to the documents.

The driver grabbed his keys and jumped out. The 14-year-old got out of the car and chased the driver, throwing a trash can, the documents show. Once police arrived, McCardell refused to get out of the car, punched officers and shouted profanities.

Yesterday in court, McCardell sat silently in his wheelchair, staring straight ahead as the prosecutor read into the record an account of the 1991 killing and 2004 attempted robbery, charges that were included in the guilty plea.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Althea M. Handy asked if he or his lawyer, Matthew Spencer, had anything to say. They said they didn't.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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