FBI investigation sought in businessman's death

December 14, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun Reporter

Baltimore City Councilman James B. Kraft called yesterday for a federal investigation into the death of Robert Lee Clay, a prominent local businessman and advocate for minority businesses who died of a bullet wound in his Reservoir Hill office last year.

Kraft, chairman of the Council's Public Safety Subcommittee, said late last night during a public hearing on the issue that he would formally request the FBI to review the state medical examiner's ruling that Clay committed suicide on May 16, 2005. Kraft said he will make the request by the end of the week.

Since Clay's death, his family and friends have criticized the police for their handling of the investigation and have repeatedly argued that the 58-year-old was murdered. The committee met last night to consider a nonbinding resolution that would have asked Baltimore police to reopen their investigation.

"The family needs closure. The Police Department needs closure. The public needs closure," Kraft said minutes after he ended the hearing. "The best way to do that is to move this forward as expeditiously as possible and I believe that ... sending this letter to the FBI and asking them to take a look at it is the most effective way to do that."

In a hearing that lasted nearly three hours and that was at times emotional and combative, more than a dozen family members, business associates and public officials called for the council to approve the resolution. Ultimately, Kraft said, the resolution will be put on hold pending the FBI's response.

"My father would not commit suicide. My father was a pillar of this community. My father had hopes and dreams for his community," Clay's daughter, Sharon Clay, said through tears. "Justice requires that I get an answer for the brutal slaying of my father."

After the hearing, Clay said she was pleased by Kraft's announcement but added that she is not sure what will come of it. It is not clear how the FBI handles such requests, and a spokeswoman with the agency could not be reached for comment late yesterday.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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