Missing teens search goes on

Youths' abduction may be drug-related

April 04, 2008|By Annie Linskey, Julie Bykowicz, Gus G. Sentementes and Jennifer McMenamin | Annie Linskey, Julie Bykowicz, Gus G. Sentementes and Jennifer McMenamin,Sun reporters

Sherl Rogers sobbed yesterday when she talked about her two nephews, teenagers who were snatched from a Catonsville house in a kidnapping that appears to be linked to Baltimore's heroin trade.

"We just want our kids to come home," Rogers said in an emotional phone interview. "We're scared that something might happen to them. We don't know where they are. We don't know where they are."

Authorities at all levels of government continued yesterday to search for Stephon Blackwell, 16, and his 15-year-old brother, Sterling Blackwell, the brothers and sons of convicted drug distributors from East Baltimore.

Baltimore County's police chief said the joint investigation is one of the most extensive in recent memory.

Police, in public comments and private conversations, have expressed frustration that they are not getting more cooperation from the boys' family and from other people who were in the house but were not abducted.

"This is a very daring and violent crime that we are intent on solving," said county police Chief James W. Johnson. "The focus of the agency is on locating the Blackwell brothers."

Six masked gunmen forced their way into a Catonsville house about 3 a.m. Tuesday and bound and gagged the 10 occupants.

A woman was sexually assaulted, according to a source familiar with the investigation who is not authorized to discuss an active case.

Johnson said yesterday that no motive for the abduction is known but that police are investigating the possibility that the kidnapping is related to the drug trade. Detectives think at least one person in the house knows the assailants, he said.

Police were still seeking a gray or silver Chevrolet Suburban believed to have been used in the kidnapping. Johnson declined to answer more specific questions about the incident.

The abducted boys' older brother Steven "JR" Blackwell Jr. has been convicted of drug distribution. Their father, Steven Blackwell Sr., 48, is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for heroin offenses, records show.

The source familiar with the investigation said that the eight-hour home invasion Tuesday ended when the older brother drove up to the house. At that point, some of the abductors drove off in a BMW convertible that was at the home - and later found in East Baltimore - with the two brothers, firing at least one shot.

The two teens spent time growing up in East Baltimore, and both have criminal histories that put them under the current supervision of the state Department of Juvenile Services, city juvenile documents reviewed by The Sun show. Although documents showed coordination between city and county juvenile workers in the brothers' cases, county juvenile records were not among the documents reviewed by The Sun.

At age 14 in October 2005, Stephon Blackwell was arrested twice on juvenile drug charges, once for possession and once for possession with intent to distribute. Those cases were dismissed, his juvenile records show.

In July 2006, Stephon was found responsible - the equivalent of guilty - for malicious destruction of property and placed on probation. The case involved a 6 a.m. break-in at a Northeast Baltimore market, according to court documents.

A court order required the Department of Juvenile Services to assist the family with school enrollment and refer Stephon to drug treatment and counseling.

Sterling Blackwell was found responsible in March of last year for drug possession, his record shows. He was placed on probation last June. In December, a court order shows, Sterling violated the terms of his probation and was ordered placed under the juvenile agency's supervision, although he was allowed to remain with his mother.

After two hearings this January, Sterling's juvenile master noted in a court order that the teen was doing well in the community. As one of Stephon's court orders indicates, the teens were separated from their father.

Steven Blackwell Sr. has been in federal prison in Pennsylvania since January 2006, serving a 10-year sentence for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Baltimore police arrested him in February 2005 after receiving a tip from a confidential source that he was going to deliver raw heroin to another person that day at a Popeye's restaurant at Sinclair Lane and Moravia Road, according to charging documents.

An officer saw Blackwell's white BMW pulling up to the restaurant at 10 a.m. He was arrested with 50 grams of raw heroin, the documents say.

Police searched Blackwell's home in the 3800 block of Southern Ave. that day, according to the documents, and recovered another 80 grams of raw heroin, 120 capsules of heroin, $25,000 cash and a 9 mm handgun between a mattress and box spring.

Rogers, the boys' aunt, said, "My nephews, they might have done some things wrong, but that's what teenagers do."

Linda Robinson, a relative of the boys' in East Baltimore, said: "Everybody is just worried to death. They don't bother anybody. They ride their little dirt bikes; they drive their cars."

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