Baltimore Sun's 25 women to watch in 2016

Witness intimidation case recalled in drug arrest

News that a woman convicted of playing a role in a horrific witness intimidation case in 2005 is now suspected in a drug and money conterfeiting case only revives years-old pain.

Shakia Watkins played a small role in trying to drive Harwood community activist Edna McAbier from her home by making fraudulent 911 calls to divert police from the area so her associates could firebomb the house. They were angry with McAbier for refusing to back down in repeatedly calling police on drug dealers.

Many people went to federal prison for long periods of time, but Watkins served four years from a federal judge and got released on three years supervised probation. Then on Friday she was one of 10 people busted by city police in connection with a drug investigation that led to the discovery of $15,000 in counterfeit money.

In 2006, Baltimore Sun reporter Matthew Dolan interviewed Edna McAbier and wrote about her plight. She had done everything right, testified against everybody, but saddes of all, even with all the people who had attacked her in prison, she could not reclaim the home she had fought so hard to protect. Friends of her attackers made that impossible.

Here is just a part of Dolan's story (full story here):

She will never again sit alone in her rowhouse off East Lorraine Avenue and gaze at the framed Declaration of Independence that her niece boasted to friends was real. She'll never again admire the Tuscany Tan paint on her walls or the original tin ceiling in her kitchen or the fake brick wall that she says fooled everyone.

More than 18 months after her home was firebombed by drug dealers now in prison, she remains in exile.

She doesn't hand out a card anymore with her address and telephone number. The former community association president who shoveled rat feces out of a local playground at 6 a.m. on Sundays and shouted at drug dealers who preyed on her corners now won't even tell people her last name.

She has spent months in hiding, appearing only to testify against the men who threatened her. Earlier this month, a federal judge sent away the last of her tormentors, the people who plotted against her because she cooperated with police, the men who tried to silence her that awful January night.

At this point, she once thought, she'd be home.

But those men, those drug dealers, those gang leaders, have friends. And friends don't forget. So after 30 years, beloved and beleaguered Harwood has lost Miss Edna, its greatest champion.

"I think the only community life I wanted," the 60-year-old said in her first interview about the attack, "is the one I had."

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