Even as two men were sentenced yesterday to life without parole for raping and murdering a 7-year-old West Baltimore girl, questions lingered about any role the child's mother may have played in the crime.
"I have no way of considering how one human being or two human beings could conceivably do such a thing," Baltimore Circuit Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe said before pronouncing sentence for a crime that stunned even the most calloused veterans of the city's criminal justice system. "Neither should ever again be free to ravage in society, and my sentence is intended to see that that doesn't happen."
The judge then sentenced Lamell A. Dixon, 18, to life in prison with no chance for parole for first-degree murder, and to two concurrent life sentences for first-degree rape and a first-degree sexual offense. Dixon also received a concurrent 10-year sentence for sodomy.
Dixon's half-brother, 21-year-old William P. Holland, received life without parole for first-degree murder and a concurrent 30-year sentence for second-degree rape.
Although neither man spoke during the hearing, both of their lawyers said they maintain their innocence.
A jury convicted both in January for the Dec. 18, 1992, sex murder of Tanisha Hope Allen, whose suffocated body was found in her 14th-floor apartment in a Lexington Terrace public housing high-rise. Dixon's bodily fluids were linked to the girl's body through DNA tests, and a witness said she saw Holland raping the girl while Dixon and the child's mother stood by. A third defendant charged in the murder, 21-year-old Tremaine Murphy, was found not guilty.
The mother, Peggy C. "Cookie" Allen, originally was charged with first-degree murder in the case, but police later dropped the charge for lack of evidence. She said that someone broke into her apartment and killed her daughter.
During the trial, Ms. Allen testified that she slept through the attack, even though it took place less than 10 feet from her bedroom.
Before sentencing the two men yesterday, Judge Bothe alluded to the mother and said, "The person who may have been principally responsible is not before the court."
Gary Woodruff, an attorney for Holland, said during the hearing dTC that "Peggy Allen's influence should not go unmentioned. . . . Her role in this whole incident is intriguing."
Court records depict Ms. Allen as a cocaine and heroin user. Records also say that Mr. Murphy told police Holland went to the apartment intending to exchange drugs for sex with the mother.
Ms. Allen's two other children are in the custody of the city Department of Social Services, prosecutor Ilene Nathan said. Ms. Allen was not in court yesterday.
Ms. Nathan and Sgt. Berry Grant, the lead detective in the case, said yesterday the investigation is continuing. Sergeant Grant said another arrest is possible, but Ms. Nathan said no arrest is imminent.