For years, as the Maryland prison gang Dead Man Inc. grew in numbers and influence, law enforcement authorities watched anxiously as the scheduled release of the gang's reputed leader drew closer, wondering what his return would mean for the violent group's burgeoning street presence.
The climax was expected to come Tuesday — the day Perry Roark was scheduled to complete his 25-year term and exit a free man.
But before his scheduled release, state police and Anne Arundel County prosecutors effectively turned back the clock by resurrecting a 17-year-old murder charge, ensuring that Roark, who is believed to have founded the gang in a Maryland prison, will remain locked away for now.
Law enforcement officials say it is a temporary solution to dealing with the growing influence of the gang, whose membership is expanding beyond prison walls. Authorities estimate it may have thousands of members across the country, with some linked to violence in Baltimore and surrounding counties.
For the past decade, Dead Man Inc. has been quietly gaining members in prisons in Maryland and across the country, recruiting white inmates who call themselves "Dawgs" and espouse an anti-government philosophy.
Compared with the nation's more notorious gangs, such as the Bloods, the Crips and the Black Guerrilla Family, Dead Man Inc. is relatively unknown. Still, it is linked to some high-profile incidents.
•In Anne Arundel County, after a 14-year-old died in a gang-related incident, authorities say a member of Dead Man Inc. firebombed the Odenton home of someone he suspected in the killing.
•When federal authorities charged members of the Black Guerrilla Family in 2009 in a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy, prosecutors said the gang offered $10,000 to Dead Man Inc. to carry out hits on corrections officers and anyone else believed to be cooperating.
• After a string of shootings, Baltimore's police commissioner said in 2009 that he was concerned about the gang operating in South Baltimore and Baltimore County. "If we don't figure out what's going on … with DMI, we'll be chasing these things for while," said Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
At a recent community meeting at the Southern District police station, gang members' pictures were flashed on a flat-screen television in the room where daily roll calls are held. Two of the district's Top 10 offenders are labeled as DMI members, including one whose neck is heavily tattooed and has the words "Dead" and "Man" tattooed on his eyebrows.
'The house he built'
Roark, a muscle-bound power lifter who turned 42 this month, has achieved godlike status among his followers, said Ryan Shifflet, Western Region director for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigation Network. Shifflet, who met with Roark six months ago, describes him as influential, though somewhat reluctantly so at this point.
"Whether he likes it or not, it's the house he built," Shifflet said. "It's his baby, and he's going to hold that role to guys that have never even met him before. You've got tons of inmates who've never laid eyes on the man, but they know who he is and have heard he's 10 feet tall and bulletproof."
Roark has been behind bars since 1991, convicted in a bumbling caper that contrasts sharply with the savvy gang impresario authorities say he has become.
Detectives investigating a March 1991 robbery at an 84 Lumber store in Dundalk received a tip that Roark, who went by the nickname "Rocky," had been involved in the crime. Police were later called to a domestic disturbance in Middle River, where Roark's accomplice, Scott Davis, and his girlfriend were arguing, according to court records.
Davis' girlfriend directed police to the trunk of Davis' car, where he had stashed two sawed-off shotguns, one of which was missing a trigger guard just like a weapon used in the lumber store robbery, records show.
Police didn't have to look far to find Roark, who was asleep in a guest room at the home, according to court records. Next to his bed were his wallet and a stocking containing two shotgun shells. A local newspaper clipping about the lumber store robbery was found in the billfold.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and a probation violation added 10 years to his sentence.
His sentence was to end Tuesday. But three law enforcement sources with knowledge of the situation, who were not allowed to discuss the charges because they remain sealed, say Roark has been served with a warrant charging him in the killing of inmate George Hartman, who was beaten to death in a dormitory of the now-closed Maryland House of Correction in February 1994.
Roark will likely be transferred to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center to be held pending trial, which one law enforcement source likened to putting a lion in a cage with kittens.