An 80-year-old man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a desk clerk at a seniors high-rise was ordered held without bail yesterday as Baltimore police said that they had misidentified the victim in public statements Monday.
Police had said the victim of the shooting at the Memorial Apartments in Bolton Hill was Thomas Batty, 86. A spokesperson confirmed the name and age twice yesterday after inquiries from a reporter.
But the spokesperson called The Sun back later and said further checks had revealed that the victim was actually a 66-year-old Thomas Batty.
The man originally named by police had died in 1979 and was not related to the shooting victim.
Police officials said they made a mistake. A spokesman said that officials at the senior home had told detectives that the victim - shot in the head and pronounced dead behind the lobby desk - was in his 80s, and a brief background check revealed several Battys, one of whom was 86.
The victim's family was spared the confusion over the identity. They said they were contacted by Memorial Apartments residents shortly after the shooting, before hearing from police.
Detectives arrested the suspect, 80-year-old Clyde Lewis, near the scene of the shooting Monday morning. Court documents filed yesterday said officers found him sitting in a courtyard of the Memorial Apartments building on McMechen Street, holding a .357-caliber handgun.
Lewis was charged with first-degree murder, assault and using a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.
He appeared in District Court yesterday, sitting on a bench among men and women two, three and four generations younger. When the charges were read, several men audibly exhaled and a murmur briefly spread through the courtroom.
"This is the most serious type of case," said Judge Jamey M. Weitzman. "He is an extreme threat to the community. Unfortunately, I must impose no bail."
Police said that the suspect and victim had a long-running dispute that led to an argument during the weekend when Batty apparently refused to let Lewis' granddaughter board an elevator in the seniors residence without signing in. Also, court documents say that Lewis complained that Batty was trying to have him evicted.
"I can't understand the satisfaction that anyone 80 years old would get from killing someone like that," said Vernon Batty, 46, the victim's younger brother. "I can't imagine a defense for that."
He said his brother was an artist who would often go to the Inner Harbor to paint and sketch landscapes. "When I was young, he painted this black panther that he sold to someone," Vernon Batty said. "That really sticks in my mind."
Another brother, Timothy Batty, 64, who lives in Grenada, Miss., recalled walking from their boyhood home in the McCulloh Homes public housing complex to friends' houses in East Baltimore. "Him and I would do a lot of walking together," he said. "We'd walk and talk."
Batty's sister Rosie Kemp, 55, said she last saw him at a religious convention. "He was a likable person. It just was not in his character," she said of her brother's violent death. "It's like I'm in a dream world."
Batty's family had no explanation for the conflict between the two men. Vernon Batty said Lewis once threw a soda at his brother, who walked away from the exchange.
"One person might harbor it for two or three years. They want to live their lives hating someone like that for one little thing," Vernon Batty said. "People in this world just don't care about each other anymore."
Three members of Lewis' family attended yesterday's bail hearing, including the 31-year-old granddaughter, who said she was the relative who visited Lewis over the weekend. She declined to give her name.
She said Lewis probably didn't understand everything that was said at the hearing. "You've got to repeat yourself to him a lot," she said, wiping away tears.
At his bail hearing at the Central Booking and Intake Center, Lewis, a thin-framed man with a salt-and-pepper crewcut and matching beard stubble, leaned forward against the arm of a bench as Weitzman, the judge, reviewed the case. At several points she asked, "Are you confused? Are you hearing me?"
"Yes. Oh yes," Lewis responded, saying he could hear the judge.
Prosecutors noted previous charges against Lewis dating to the 1980s, including two assault charges and one charge for possession of a deadly weapon.
Officials did not divulge the outcome of the previous cases, and records that far back were not available yesterday.
Attorney James Hanratty, a public defender, said Lewis has emphysema and depression and asked that he be released to the care of his granddaughter, a motion that Weitzman denied.