The murder charge that was dropped against Tyrone Beane this week because no witness would testify against him was just one in a long line of felony counts he's beaten in his 18 years.
He was once called Baltimore's "most wanted fugitive" because he was accused in two separate killings. But those murder charges have since melted away, as have numerous other counts, including attempted murders, violent assaults, drug dealing and several counts of possessing handguns.
"How can one little person get away with so much stuff and slip through so many cracks?" asked Earlene Austin-Cox, the mother of a man he is accused of killing. "The wrong message is being sent out."
Neither Beane's lawyer nor his family could be reached to comment yesterday.
Austin-Cox refused to go to court this week to see prosecutors drop charges against Beane in the killing of her first-born son, Taharka McCoy, 25, who was gunned down in January last year.
Austin-Cox said her son served four years in prison on a gun charge but was living a crime-free life when he was killed. He was a community college student who had a 7-year- old son and enjoyed family outings.
McCoy tried to be a mentor to Beane and had told him repeatedly to stop robbing people in the neighborhood, said prosecutor Gerard B. Volatile.
When McCoy happened upon Beane allegedly robbing three men playing dice, he tried to stop the teen-ager, Volatile said. That was when McCoy was shot once in the stomach, and five more times after he fell to the ground, Volatile said.
Prosecutors declined to go forward with the case this week because their key witness -- Beane's sister, to whom they said he confessed -- could not be found.
"I'm frustrated. I'm hurt. I'm disappointed in how it turned out," said Austin-Cox, 46, who works as a data entry clerk and has four surviving children.
Witness problems are so common in Baltimore that almost 60 percent of cases that the state's attorney's office failed to prosecute last year were dropped because witnesses couldn't be located before trial, said Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.
Prosecutors initially believed Tyiashia Beane would testify against her brother. Tyiashia Beane told investigators that her brother confessed to her, and offered details from the crime scene, including the fact that the victim was shot with two guns from close range.
"She corroborated everything. She told me she had no trouble testifying against her brother and would have no trouble with the family because it was the right thing to do," said prosecutor Lisa Goldberg, who initially handled the case. "I guess the family is hiding her now."
Austin-Cox said she knows several people -- including some members of her family -- who saw her son being gunned down in East Baltimore's Somerset Homes, but they all refused to tell police who shot him.
"One of the guys who was there, I keep asking him why he won't come forward," she said. "He's afraid he will get shot."
Though it upsets her, she also understands why they decide to hide.
"I'm angry on one hand, and I understand on the other hand because they don't want to jeopardize their lives," she said.
Of the dozens of criminal counts Beane has been charged with as an adult, he has been convicted of only a few stemming from a single incident. In January, he was found guilty of attempted second-degree mur- der, robbery and handgun violations.
The reason he was convicted that time was because a 16-year-old girl had enough courage to testify against him.
She walked onto the witness stand, and shook as she told the jury how Beane robbed her, put a gun to head and pulled the trigger four times.
Beane had allegedly just used the gun to shoot a man in the genitals, but somehow, the gun apparently jammed.
He will be sentenced in that case this month. Prosecutors say they will seek the maximum prison time, which could be as long as 70 years.
Austin-Cox was impressed with the girl who testified against Beane. She went to the trial even though it did not deal with her son's death because she "wanted to see him get punished."
"I'm proud of the girl," Austin-Cox said. "She was somewhat shaky when she testified, but she was brave and she did it."
In the other homicide case against Beane, he was charged with shooting Christopher Smith, 17, in July 2001. But investigators could not build a solid case against him.
"Sometimes the evidence at first blush looks good," said prosecutor Goldberg. "But we got conflicting reports when we got to interviewing people."
In that case, the victim saw two men standing on the corner in the 1600 block of E. Madison St., according to court records. Smith was fatally shot and another man, Vernon Higgs, 23, was wounded.
Beane was arrested, but the charges were dropped.
Sun staff writer Laurie Willis contributed to this article.
In November, Beane is accused of putting a gun to the head of a 15-year-old girl and pulling the trigger four times. It jams.
Beane is arrested in December, accused of jamming a gun into a man's mouth and hitting him with it. He is released on bail. 2002
In January, Beane appears in juvenile court for previous assault and drug charges. Prosecutors fail to note the arrest a month earlier and the judge releases him on home detention, fitted with an electronic monitoring device, which police say Beane cuts off. Three days later, Beane is accused of killing Taharka McCoy.
Beane is charged the next month in the killing of Christopher Smith, 17, the previous July. A warrant is issued for his arrest. Days later, he is charged in the McCoy shooting. Prosecutors determine they do not have enough evidence to indict him for the first killing, but he remains in jail. 2003
Beane is convicted of attempted murder after he is accused of pulling the gun on the 15-year-old girl.
Charges are dropped this week in the McCoy killing when a witness disappears.