A teen-ager the city once named its "most wanted fugitive" beamed a toothy grin yesterday as Baltimore prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge against him for the second time in two years because of problems with witnesses.
"I feel pretty confident he got away with murder with this one," said assistant state's attorney Gerard B. Volatile, who declined to prosecute Tyrone Beane, 18, in Circuit Court because the key witness - his sister - could not be found.
The outcome of Beane's murder cases typify the persistent problems prosecutors have building strong cases against those charged with Baltimore's most violent crimes. Witnesses often are afraid to testify, fearing retribution, and change their statement by the time of the trial or fail to show up in court.
"It feels like this happens all the time," said Volatile, visibly frustrated. "The drug subculture is more powerful than what is supposed to be our culture."
Beane remains in jail and could receive up to 70 years in prison from a separate incident, in which he was convicted in January for putting a gun to the head of a 15-year-old girl during a robbery. He pulled the trigger four times, but the gun failed to fire.
Beane's family was in the courtroom to support him yesterday, and yelled "I love you" as a sheriff's deputy led Beane away in handcuffs. They would not speak with a reporter.
The murder charge that was dropped against him yesterday was in connection with the death of Taharka McCoy, 25, who was killed with bullets from two guns on Jan. 17.
Beane of the 700 block of Wharton Court was the only person charged in the shooting.
Due to an earlier conviction, he had been restricted to his home at the time of McCoy's death, but prosecutors allege that he had cut his electronic home monitoring device from his ankle and went out. Although the anklet is designed to alert authorities when it is disconnected, it did not in this case.
McCoy was killed in East Baltimore's Somerset Homes after he tried to stop Bean from robbing his friends, prosecutors said.
Volatile told Circuit Court Judge Evelyn Omega Cannon that he didn't believe Beane's sister would be found "in any reasonable amount of time."
Tyiashia Beane told police her brother confessed the killing to her. She revealed details of the crime, identified her brother in a photo line-up, then later disappeared, said Detective Homer Pennington, the lead investigator in the case.
Beane's original trial date in the McCoy murder was Jan. 16. But Tyiashia Beane did not show up to court, prompting Judge John N. Prevas to issue a bench warrant for her.
Police have been scouring the streets for her since, Pennington said.
Without Tyiashia Beane, prosecutors said, the state does not have a worthy case.
The men who were robbed just before McCoy was killed say they did not see who shot their friend, Volatile said.
He also said no one in the neighborhood was willing to tell police what they saw.
"It's absurd there's no witness," Volatile said.
McCoy's family could not be reached for comment yesterday. Volatile said McCoy's mother decided not to come to the courtroom yesterday because she did not want to watch the charges against Beane being dropped.
Though the state has decided not to go forward with the case, it is possible to re-charge Beane if necessary witnesses against him resurface.
Beane, who has amassed a long criminal history in his short life, was charged last year with the July 2001 murder of 17-year-old Christopher Smith.
Police said they dropped that case in September because of a "bad identification" from a witness.
At the time, prosecutors said the second murder case against Beane was a strong one, and that they had evidence linking him to killing McCoy.
But the case soon fell apart.
In the successful prosecution in January, a jury found Beane guilty of eight counts, including attempted second-degree murder.
"He might have gotten away with murder, but he's not going to see the streets anytime soon," Pennington said.
When Beane is sentenced on the attempted murder charge March 21, the judge is not permitted to take into account any other cases, past or present.
In November, prosecutors dropped murder charges in another high-profile case because of unreliable witnesses. In that case, Nathaniel Boyd Fedd, the man who was charged with killing scholar-athlete Rio-Jarell Tatum walked out of court with a smile similar to Beane's.