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Drug violence strikes in O'Donnell Heights Woman slain; son, 3 others wounded


Jamaican drug dealers from New York City are being sought for killing a 24-year-old O'Donnell Heights woman and wounding her 4-year-old son and three other people, police said.

Police said Jamaican drug dealers -- perhaps the same group -- also are responsible for killing a 29-year-old woman and her 2-year-old child Jan. 7 in their Northeast Baltimore apartment.

"They [detectives] are taking a strong, strong look at a possible connection between both shootings," said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman.

New York boys -- as they are referred to by local drug traffickers -- have been taking over sections of the city in recent years.

"It's taken a while for them to get a hold, but they are here," a detective said. "Now the violence will increase. It's not going to get any better. They have a total disregard for human life. They [the shootings] are totally senseless."

The latest slaying occurred just before midnight Tuesday when a group of at least four Jamaicans walked into a house in the 1200 block of Tennant Way that they reportedly had been using as a stash house, police said.

Police said the assailants reportedly were upset over some missing money or drugs.

"The people were known by the victims," a detective said. "They didn't force their way into the house."

One of the men walked to the second floor of the house and spoke with 24-year-old Tonya Cannady, said homicide Detective Thomas S. Pelligrini.

After the two exchanged words, the man pulled a small-caliber handgun and shot the woman in the face.

As she fell to the floor, the assailant then turned and shot the woman's 4-year-old son, Troy Dixon, in the back of the head as he was sleeping in a nearby bed, Detective Pelligrini said.

The gunman then went to the first floor of the house and shot Lelia Crawford, 24, who was known to stay with a number of people in the O'Donnell Heights area. She was shot in the nose, neck, jaw and both arms.

All of the victims then were left for dead.

The Dixon youth and Miss Crawford were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where they were reported in serious condition last night.

Police said they still are attempting to find a connection between the shooting on Tennant Way and one that occurred at about the same time in a nearby house in the 1200 block of Urban Way.

Michael Emmit, 34, of the 2200 block of East Preston Street, told police he was stabbed and beaten by a group of Jamaicans in the house on Urban Way. He then fled the house, leaving behind a 30-year-old woman, who told investigators of being shot in the head and stabbed before being raped. She was reported in serious condition last night at Francis Scott Key Medical Center.

As darkness descended on O'Donnell Heights last night, residents braced for what many said they feared would be more of the drug activity and violence that they said have become commonplace.

"Same ol', same ol'," said one woman, who asked that her name not be used. The woman's house on Urban Way was filled with children, both hers and her neighbors'.

"I just stay in my house and close my doors and try to keep my children safe. That's really all you can do," she said.

Debbie Nardone, who lives next door to Ms. Cannady's house on Tennant Way, said she and her husband were watching television, but heard nothing, when the shootings occurred. She said she had not seen any evidence of drug dealing at the house but noticed "people coming in and out all the time, 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning."

She said she has seen the neighborhood steadily deteriorate since she moved there eight years ago. After dark, groups openly sell and use drugs. "They hang out on our porch, smoking pot, doing their drug deals. The only way for me to get rid of them is to let my dog out after them," she said.

Several residents expressed shock and outrage at the shooting of 4-year-old Troy. Kelly Williams lives across from Ms. Cannady's house,and his children played with the youngster. He said he last saw Troy Monday, after he took his children to school.

"I saw him riding down the walk on a [tricycle]," he said. "I just pray he pulls through. . . . It's bad, man. They don't have respect for little children."

Where once much of the narcotics sold in Baltimore came from New York, now many of the sellers themselves are young men from the Bronx, Brooklyn and upper Manhattan, lured to Baltimore by simple economics: a $5 capsule of New York cocaine brings $10 in this city.

Detectives and patrol officers contend that the younger dealers, who have no ties to Baltimore, are quick to resort to violence. Since last year, about 20 homicides -- including the slayings of several innocent bystanders -- have been linked by police to the New York traffickers.

Noting that the migration of New Yorkers has been a factor in Baltimore's drug trade since the mid-1980s, rank-and-file officers in the Baltimore Police Department have been critical of superiors for failing to respond to the problem.

Police said the group of Jamaicans being sought has been in town for less than a year and reportedly had used several houses, including the Tennant Way location, for stashing drugs. Drug traffickers often pay people to allow them to stash drugs in homes.

Police said no drugs or paraphernalia were found Tuesday night.

Members of the group being sought used nicknames and street locations to identify themselves and the area of their trade, making it difficult for police to locate the suspects.

On Jan. 7, the bodies of Maria Sharon Bryant, 29, and her 2-year-old son, Tavon Nelson Thompson, were found in their apartment in the 2400 block of Gainsborough Court by the woman's daughter.

Detectives said they believe the two were slain by Jamaican drug dealers seeking revenge for a drug debt by a relative.

"He had moved out when they went there so they shot them for revenge," a detective said. "There was no compassion. They were just shot."

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