Angry over an 8-year-old boy's slaying in a public housing high-rise, relatives and neighbors yesterday demanded better security and urged parents to take better care of their children.
The strangulation over the weekend of Marvin Douglas Wise Jr. -- allegedly by a convicted child molester who was visiting the complex -- became a rallying point for more than 50 residents of Flag House Courts.
At a news conference yesterday, speakers complained that Wells Fargo security guards -- who replaced Nation of Islam Security Agency guards in December -- have allowed conditions to deteriorate by allowing outsiders in without showing identification.
"If we don't do something about this, Baltimore will continue to be the city that bleeds and not the city that reads," said Wennie Gibson, a relative of the victim who lives in South Carolina. "The fight is not over yet. No one will be able to come in here and do what they did to Marvin."
Dorothy Scott, Flag House Courts tenant council leader, warned residents to take a stand and threatened to fine them $10 for missing tenant meetings.
"What we need right now is a solution. What can we do to make this a safer place?" Ms. Scott said. "We have to take the upper hand."
Marvin's mother, Mary Williams, broke down at the news conference, able only to thank friends for attending before losing her composure and sobbing.
In an interview Monday, Ms. Williams, 27, said her son, a third-grader at City Springs Elementary School who was nicknamed "Bear" for his large size, had looked forward to playing basketball and was excited about getting his team uniform. Friday was his first, and last, practice.
Police said Marvin was killed after leaving his mother's 11th-floor apartment at 26 S. Exeter St. to visit a girl in the apartment where the suspect was staying. A security guard found Marvin's body early Sunday in the back room of a vacant, debris-strewn 12th-floor apartment.
Police quickly arrested Shawn Brown, 27, who had been released in June from a New York state prison after serving nine years for attempted murder and for child molestation. He was charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail until his trial.
Court documents released yesterday say a witness saw Mr. Brown coming out of the 12th-floor apartment after hearing screams.
Housing Authority of Baltimore City police said yesterday that Mr. Brown had been visiting his sister and had correctly signed in with guards on several occasions for overnight stays. Residents said that Mr. Brown befriended children living there and that he took Marvin and other children to the Inner Harbor.
Zack Germroth, a Housing Authority spokesman, said that under rules that took effect in October, Mr. Brown might not have qualified for residency because of his criminal record. But he said it is impractical to run a background check on every visitor.
Housing officials also agreed to board up all 92 vacant apartments in the three Flag House Courts high-rises. Mr. Germroth said the apartment where Marvin was found slain had been sealed, but someone had pried off the boards.
A wake is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Abraham Baptist Church, 1124 W. North Ave. Services will follow at 11:30 a.m.