Two Indicted For Murder

Grand Jury Hands Down New Charges Against City Men

August 14, 2009|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment Thursday, charging two Baltimore men - Johnnie "JR" Butler and Calvin "Turkey" Wright - in connection with gun crimes and a murder, in addition to the drug-distribution conspiracy alleged a year ago.

It's the first time Butler, 33, has been indicted for murder, though police have long suspected he was linked to at least two homicides.

In June, police filed an application for statements of charges and arrest warrants against Butler and Wright, 37, alleging they tortured and killed Sintia Mesa, whose naked body was found stuffed into the trunk of her Toyota Solara in January 2007. But the men haven't yet been served in the case, and the U.S. attorney's office did not include it in the superseding indictment.

Instead, federal prosecutors are focusing on the death of Fernando Rodriguez, who they say supplied Butler with heroin and cocaine. According to the new indictment, investigators allege that Butler shot Rodriguez in October 2007 and that Wright helped him dispose of the body.

A year ago, a grand jury returned a one-count indictment against Butler, Wright, Daron Ashe, 22, and seven others alleging that they were involved in a conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin, to which all three men pleaded not guilty. Ashe is not included in Thursday's murder or gun allegations.

The current indictment dropped the other names, added cocaine to the scheme and now measures drugs in kilograms. It seeks the forfeiture of vehicles and $800,000 in allegedly illegal proceeds. If convicted, the defendants face maximum penalties of life in prison. Calls to Wright's and Butler's attorneys were not immediately returned Thursday.

Ashe's attorney, Roland Walker, said "there's a distinct possibility that" his client will come to a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office. They've been negotiating but haven't reached a final plea, he said.

Affidavits that led to at least 18 September raids and multiple arrests in connection with last year's indictment claim that Butler and his associates ran heroin shops throughout Baltimore's east side. They drove flashy cars, including a 2008 Mercedes-Benz purportedly purchased for $117,000 from Pittsburgh Steelers star Hines Ward, and pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash each month, an affidavit says.

The joint investigation included the city Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Baltimore state's attorney's office, which is prosecuting others linked to the conspiracy. In July, the office won five-year sentences against Tavon Young and Davon Ashe, Daron Ashe's brother.

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