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Witness' family assails police for not preventing her death


The family of a slain Baltimore woman made a public appeal last night for money to pay for her funeral and expressed anger that the criminal justice system didn't protect her after she agreed to testify in a murder case.

"She was not protected, and I do not understand that," said Johnny Lee Murphy, the estranged husband of the victim, Latisha Regina Murphy.

"When you have public officials begging for people to provide information about a crime, then they have an obligation to protect someone who comes forward," said Mr. Murphy, who spoke at the East Baltimore rally with his three children at his side.

The family gathered with the Rev. Willie Ray, the "Stop the Killing" activist, in the 1700 block of Crystal Ave. where Ms. Murphy was shot twice in the face on Feb. 12.

Mr. Ray urged people to donate money for Ms. Murphy's funeral tomorrow and not to be afraid to accuse neighborhood criminals.

"We have to let the drug dealers know that they're not going to intimidate us," Mr. Ray said. "We have to let them know that we refuse to be victims and prisoners in our own communities. We can't be afraid."

Ms. Murphy, 34, witnessed the Nov. 4 slaying of Tauris Johnson, 10, who was shot in the head when he was caught in the cross-fire of warring drug dealers in the 1700 block of East Oliver St.

Police said she had agreed to testify against the child's alleged killer, Nathaniel Dawson, 24, of New York City. She had previously worked for Dawson, a paroled drug dealer, as a lookout and let him use her home to stash drugs, police said.

City officials said that she was made aware of the options available under a witness protection program, but opted not to participate.

Investigators said no arrests had been made in her death and that it was unclear whether she was killed because of her willingness to testify.

"I think a lot of people are going to be scared to come forward now. Everybody knows what happened to her," said Karen Crosby, a friend who attended last night's rally.

Police said that although numerous people were on the street when Ms. Murphy was shot, they are having trouble gathering information in the case.

Mr. Murphy said his wife and he had separated in 1990 as a result of her drug problems. He described her as "a good mother and wife" whose life was torn apart by drug dependency. She previously had worked as a nurse's aide for elderly people in private homes, he said.

"Drugs invade a lot of families, and they invaded ours," Mr. Murphy said.

Mr. Ray said that donations to the Latisha Murphy funeral fund may be sent to the William C. Brown Community Funeral Home, 1206 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21217.

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