'Murderer's row' drug gang seized Police say 4 paroled killers plotted to form ring in Maryland Penitentiary

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Four paroled killers -- including one involved in the 1972 slaying of a Baltimore policeman -- were arrested yesterday as police broke up a million-dollar-a-month cocaine and heroin ring.

Police said the four men met at the Maryland Penitentiary while serving murder sentences and decided to go into the drug business together when they got out.

"What you have here is a real murderer's row," said Lt. Rob Dewberry, head of the Baltimore County narcotics squad, describing the suspects. They were among eight arrested during raids on 13 homes and businesses in Baltimore, Baltimore County and Harford County early yesterday morning.

About 70 city and county police and FBI agents took part in the 6 a.m. raids, which netted $38,000 in cash, at least $100,000 worth of suspected drugs and a large cache of weapons, including an Uzi submachine gun.

Police identified the ringleader as Robert Lee Wilson, 46, of the 6700 block of Windsor Mill Road in Woodlawn, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the shotgun slaying of Baltimore police Officer Lorenzo Gray during a July 1972 holdup. He was not the trigger man, and he was paroled from a 40-year prison sentence in 1986.

"This is probably one of the most violent drug rings we've seen in a while, with four of the top members being convicted murderers," said Detective Charles M. Gruss, a county narcotics officer.

Found during the early-morning raids yesterday were 12 weapons, including the Uzi, two shotguns and eight handguns.

Police said one suspect, Frederick "Moe" Goodman, 40, who stabbed a man to death on a Baltimore street in 1970, went for his shotgun as police raided his house in the 3900 block of Groveland Ave. in Northwest Baltimore. He was subdued without incident.

At the time of his conviction, a city judge told Goodman that his crime was so coldblooded he deserved the death penalty. Only the fact that he was a juvenile at the time saved him. He got a life sentence instead but was paroled in October 1991.

Yesterday, police said they found Goodman's parole card sitting on 2 ounces of cocaine and heroin in his home.

The two other convicted murderers arrested as part of the drug ring yesterday were Robert Smallwood, 34, also known as Abdullah Mateen, of the first block of Cheviot Court in Woodlawn, and James A. Bryant, 40, of the first block of Old Forge Lane in White Marsh.

Smallwood was paroled in March for the November 1978 robbery and murder of an 83-year-old city grocery store owner. The store owner, Albert Coan, was shot and killed when he refused to put his hands up during a holdup. Smallwood was 20 at the time.

Bryant was given a 25-year prison term after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the June 1974 shooting of Johnny Joy, 54. Mr. Joy was shot in the abdomen when he tried to resist a robbery in the 2300 block of McCulloh St.

When arrested for the murder, Bryant told police that he took $23 from his dying victim's pocket, then went home and ate dinner while he decided how to dispose of the murder weapon.

Capt. Michael Andrew, head of the city Narcotics Bureau, said ballistics experts will examine the seized weapons carefully to see if they've been used in other crimes.

"With the violent nature of that group," he said, "I believe those guns will have a lot to say."

Detective Gruss said the FBI and city and county police worked together for 18 months on the investigation. An undercover county officer, Mary T. Williams, was able to infiltrate the ring and make direct purchases, Detective Gruss said.

"It was a pretty strong organization that's been going on for at least three or four years," he said.

The drug ring was responsible for bringing into the Baltimore area roughly 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of heroin per month and 2 to 4 kilograms of cocaine -- worth an estimated $1.1 million on the street, police said.

Most of the drugs came from New York and were transported on Amtrak trains, police said.

During the arrests yesterday, police also seized eight cars and a truck, including a 1986 Jaguar and a 1985 Mercedes. Wilson was charged with three counts of distributing cocaine and heroin in Baltimore, and one count of distributing cocaine in Baltimore County. Mateen was charged with one count of distributing cocaine in Baltimore County. Both men were awaiting bail review hearings last night.

Police said when they raided Wilson's home in the 6700 block of Windsor Mill Road at 6 a.m., his two children -- boys 2 and 7 years old -- were home alone. Wilson's wife was at work, and Wilson was found at a so-called "cutting" house in the 3900 block of Noyes Circle in Randallstown, police said.

After his release from prison, Wilson became a bail bondsman, opening Swift Bail Bonds in the 5400 block of Reisterstown Road.

Police said yesterday that Wilson helped get his prison buddies early release dates by listing them as employees of his bail bond company.

Also arrested yesterday on various drug charges were Smallwood's wife, Pearl M. Smallwood, 34; Antoine Rich, 22, of the 4900 block of Chalgrove Ave. in Northwest Baltimore; William Kevin Wright, 25, of the 1700 block of St. Paul St.; and Anthony Thomas, 39, whose address was unknown.

PROFILES OF FOUR MURDERERS

Robert Lee Wilson was sentenced to 40 years after he pleaded guilty in the July 25, 1972, murder of Southeastern District police Officer Lorenzo A. Gray, who was shot in the chest and stomach with a sawed-off shotgun after he tried to stop a motel robbery. Wilson, then 25, and an accomplice were robbing a Holiday Inn in the 3600 block of Pulaski Highway when Officer Gray and his partner intervened. Officer Gray, 24, was hit twice in a shootout in the motel's kitchen and died three hours later at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The second holdup man, George L. Milburn, was convicted of being the trigger man and was sentenced to life in prison.

Frederick Goodman was sentenced to life for the March 20, 1970, murder of Robert C. Wegner, 43, who was stabbed to death in a robbery that a judge said was so coldblooded that it would have merited the death penalty had Goodman not been a juvenile. Age 17 at the time of the attack, Goodman told several young friends he planned to "yoke," or rob someone on the street, and he set out with a knife looking for a victim. Mr. Wegner was walking near a tavern in the 4800 block of Nelson Ave. when Goodman accosted him and stabbed him in the chest. As Mr. Wegner lay mortally wounded on the ground, Goodman rifled his pockets and took a small amount of cash. Judge William J. O'Donnell told Goodman at the sentencing hearing that his youth had spared him from a death sentence. In 1973, Goodman was charged but later found innocent of conspiring to riot with several other inmates at the Maryland Penitentiary. The uprising caused $44,000 in damage as inmates, using a bullhorn, shouted "Revolution has come" and "Let's get the guards."

James A. Bryant was given a 25-year prison term after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the June 1974 shooting of Johnny Joy, 54. Mr. Joy was shot in the abdomen when he tried to resist a robbery in the 2300 block of McCulloh St. Bryant, then 22, confessed to the crime, telling police he had taken $23 from the dying victim's pocket, then went home and ate dinner while he decided how to dispose of the murder weapon.

Robert Smallwood was arrested Nov. 31, 1978, along with three other men and charged with killing Albert Coan, the 83-year-old proprietor of Coan's Grocery in the 1100 block of N. Carrollton Ave. Mr. Coan was shot three times after he twice ignored a bandit's order to put his hands up during a robbery of his store. Smallwood was 20 at the time.

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