The investigation of the brutal sex murder of 7-year-old Tanisha Hope Allen was going nowhere until Raychella Smith spoke up. After months of silence, the 25-year-old waitress named names, and yesterday two men she identified were convicted in Tanisha's grisly killing.
A Baltimore Circuit Court jury deliberated for little more than two hours before finding Lamell A. Dixon, 18, and William P. Holland, 21, guilty of first-degree murder in what one prosecutor said was "the most heinous act this courthouse has seen in a long time."
Dixon, whose bodily fluids were linked to the West Baltimore girl's body through DNA testing, was also convicted of first-degree rape, a first-degree sexual offense and sodomy. Holland was also found guilty of second-degree rape.
Prosecutors are asking that both be sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole. They are to be sentenced March 8 by Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe.
A third man, Tremaine Murphy, 21, was acquitted of all charges.
"Make no mistake about it," said Berry L. Grant, the homicide detective who pressed Ms. Smith for months before she decided to testify. "This case would have never gone had she not finally given them up."
In her testimony, she attributed her initial reluctance to come forward to a death threat delivered by Dixon. "I wanted to protect myself and my children," she said.
Driven by the atrocity of the Dec. 12, 1992, crime, the detective pressured and cajoled Ms. Smith until July 1993, when she gave him the testimony he needed. The three defendants were indicted a day later.
At trial she testified that she went to the 14th-floor apartment of the child's mother, Peggy C. "Cookie" Allen, to retrieve her Independence welfare card, and that she found Ms. Allen there and Dixon with his pants off and Holland on top of the child.
She said visions of the attack never left her and finally made her testify. "It's eating me up inside," she said.
Ms. Allen was not in court yesterday. She had initially been charged with being an accomplice to murder, but that charge that was dropped for lack of evidence.
After yesterday's verdicts were announced, prosecutor Ilene Nathan said the investigation is continuing.
Sergeant Grant said another arrest is possible.