Three teen-agers were charged yesterday in the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl during a crack cocaine binge in December at a West Baltimore public housing high-rise complex, city police said.
Police said they believe Tanisha Hope Allen was sodomized in her bedroom by at least two of the suspects. The girl's mother, Peggy Cecelia Allen, 24, had been charged in February with being an accomplice to murder, but those charges were dismissed in March.
New information received this week led to charges against the three teens, who are accused in a crime that shocks even homicide investigators.
"It was horribly brutal," said Detective Berry P. Grant, case investigator. "This little girl had to suffer through it all . . . and then was smothered."
Tanisha lived with her mother on the 14th floor of the Lexington Terrace complex in the 200 block of N. Fremont Ave. Ms. Allen told police she found her daughter dead at 8 a.m. Dec. 18 and claimed the crime was committed by an intruder who broke in through a window.
Charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape, sodomy and battery are William Phillip Holland, 19, and Lamell Antonio Dixon, 17, (charged as an adult), police said. The two, who are stepbrothers, were arrested at 5:40 a.m. yesterday at their apartment on the 11th floor of Lexington Terrace, police said.
As they were being arrested, the third suspect, Tremaine Lamont Murphy, 19, of the 1000 block of McKean Ave. arrived to visit the stepbrothers and immediately was arrested on the same charges, police said.
At the time of the murder, police said Mr. Murphy lived on the ninth floor of the high-rise.
The new break in the case was provided by an informant Monday night, police said.
Police said they believe the three teen-agers went to visit Ms. Allen's apartment late in the evening on Dec. 17, and the group "got high" on crack cocaine, an investigator said.
At some point, the teens went in to Tanisha's bedroom, where the child was raped and then smothered with an unknown object, police said.
Ms. Allen had been charged two months after the crime with first-degree murder. In court papers filed at that time, police alleged she was aware of the rape "while it was happening and in fact participated . . . and assisted in the murder of her daughter."
But Ms. Allen, initially jailed without bail at the Women's Detention Center, vehemently denied any involvement in the killing, saying she was asleep when someone broke in and murdered her daughter.
Although she only slept 10 feet from her daughter's bed, Ms. Allen said she didn't wake up during the night and the killer or killers had fled by the time she got up in the morning.
She told police she became aware of her daughter's death about 8 a.m. when a neighbor stopped by to pick up Tanisha for school.
Police had charged her in February because there was "no rational explanation for the fabrication of the burglary nor her ignorance as to the identity of the male suspect," according to charging documents.
Particularly puzzling to investigators, according to documents, was how Ms. Allen could not have heard her daughter's screams while being raped and murdered.
Two state medical examiners performed an autopsy and "stated that due to the amount of trauma, the victim had to attempt to scream and that she suffered a great amount of pain until she died," documents said.
Due to lack of evidence, the murder charge against Ms. Allen was dropped six weeks after her arrest and before her preliminary court hearing.
Police said they have not ruled her out as a suspect and may seek a grand jury indictment against her.