Police charge woman, 75, in drug case 18 others indicted in probe of ring


Three members of a Baltimore County family that has been linked to crime for two decades -- including its 75-year-old matriarch -- were arrested yesterday on drug charges.

Nellie Widener of Sparks, her grandson and his wife were among 19 people, most of them from northern Baltimore County, indicted on drug charges in connection with a ring allegedly operated by one of Mrs. Widener's sons, police said.

The arrests resulted from an investigation that began in April 1990, crossing state lines into Virginia and Pennsylvania as police followed the trail of a marijuana smuggling and distribution operation.

Authorities alleged that the ring was headed by James Roger "Babe" Widener, 46, of Stewartstown, Pa. -- the latest of five Widener sons to face criminal charges -- and Robert Wayne "Bobby" Six, 34, of White Hall. Police alleged that they imported as much as 15 pounds of marijuana a month from a source in Spotsylvania County, Va.

James Widener and Diana Lynn Elk, 25, who lives with him, were arrested in April by Pennsylvania troopers on marijuana and conspiracy charges and are free on $75,000 bond. Another couple, Brian Scott Foster, 43, and Dawn Renee Foster, 32, of Parkton, were arrested in March and freed on personal recognizance on possession and distribution charges.

After her arrest yesterday on a charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, Mrs. Widener was released on personal recognizance by a district court commissioner.

By late last night, the county police had arrested 13 of the 19 people who were indicted, including the grandson, Steven Wayne Widener, 26, and his wife, Kathryn Widener,30, of Freeland, and Mr. Six and his wife, Gail Ruth Six, 33.

Another of Mrs. Widener's sons, 35-year-old Freddie D. Widener of Sparks, was sentenced in June to nearly 22 years in federal prison for robbing a federal credit union in Middle River last year. Widener cried in court as he recounted a life of heroin abuse and jail terms and said his crimes were prompted by an unhappy home life and abuse from his late father, whom he described as "a jealous and violent man."

Another Widener son, John C., was murdered in a federal prison in Atlanta in 1977, while the others -- Freddie and Ernest -- received lengthy prison terms for thefts and drug-related offenses. Another grandson was fatally shot during a holdup at a county pharmacy in 1983.

Mrs. Widener's record includes a 1975 conviction for trying to smuggle hashish concealed in a bottle of shampoo to her son Ernest while he was locked up, at age 17, in the Baltimore County jail.

She also pleaded guilty in 1984, nearing 70, to maintaining a common nuisance house after police, while arresting Ernest Widener again, found drugs and numerous items stolen in north county burglaries. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Austin W. Brizendine said he was reluctant to send a woman her age to jail but gave Mrs. Widener 90 days behind bars for what he described as being "too protective" of her children.

Ernest Widener later was sentenced to 18 years for theft.

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