The victims were middle-aged recovering addicts living in a group home in North Baltimore's Remington neighborhood. The gunmen, police believe, were young drug dealers who had come to collect.
Nathaniel Gulliver walked to a nearby ATM and drained his bank account to help his friend, Antwon Arthur, pay off a $300 marijuana debt. But the $140 he had to offer wasn't enough. The gunmen corralled five residents into a second-floor room and fatally shot Gulliver, Arthur and Steven Matthews. Two other residents escaped.
It was a crime that prompted calls for reform of group homes, a cottage industry the city health commissioner at the time called "a totally unregulated, uncatalogued set of services."
Yesterday, a Baltimore jury convicted one of the defendants, 28-year-old Derrick Taylor, of three counts of felony murder - convictions that could send him to prison for life, without the possibility of parole, when he is sentenced in April.
The second defendant, 30-year-old Corey McMillon, is to stand trial in April. He is already serving a sentence of life plus 20 years for an unrelated killing.
Police have described the triple killing as brazen. One police official said at the time that the gunmen killed Gulliver and Matthews simply to eliminate witnesses to the killing of Arthur, who was shot first.
Assistant State's Attorney Donald J. Giblin, a prosecutor for 32 years, said he couldn't be sure why the men were gunned down.
"Violence begets violence," he said yesterday. "It's almost like bloodlust."
It was late at night Jan. 10, 2005, when the gunmen burst into the group home in the 500 block of W. 27th St. When Arthur could not come up with the money he owed, Gulliver said he could help, police said. One of the gunmen apparently escorted Gulliver to an automated teller machine on nearby Charles Street, and he withdrew $140.
The pair returned to the group home. Prosecutors say they believe Taylor shot Arthur, and then McMillon shot Gulliver and Matthews. Each man was shot in the head, police said.
Resident Shawn Brown was shot several times in the back as he escaped out a second-floor window. A fifth man - whom prosecutors described as sitting immobile, frozen by fear - was not injured.
The two survivors testified at Taylor's trial.
Taylor's attorney, Sharon A.H. May, said her client has "maintained his innocence throughout," and she raised issues with the prosecution witnesses.
May said Brown, who identified Taylor as Arthur's killer, made the identification when he was on pain medication and without his glasses.
She described another witness - Taylor's former girlfriend, who was also charged in the killings until she agreed to cooperate with prosecutors - as untrustworthy.
"And there was absolutely no physical or forensic evidence linking my client to the crime," May said.
As police investigated the killings, city officials questioned whether group homes such as the one on 27th Street should be more closely regulated. A city task force set about trying to identify how many of the unlicensed homes are scattered throughout the city and estimated there could be as many as 2,000.
Now, two years later, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the city health commissioner, said an organization called Baltimore Area Supportive Housing has been trying to set voluntary standards for group homes.
Sharfstein said the homeless services division of the Health Department plans to coordinate with that organization to find funding and better monitor group homes - which are called "supportive housing" - for recovering addicts.
"Supportive housing is desperately needed, especially for [recovering addicts] who don't want to go back into their neighborhoods," he said.
By the time jurors reached a verdict yesterday in the Taylor case, they were on their fifth day of deliberations and had asked at least a dozen questions - leading some to fear a mistrial.
In court yesterday, the forewoman announced that jurors were hopelessly deadlocked on all three first-degree murder counts, two of the three second-degree murder counts and attempted-murder and assault charges.
But all 12 agreed that Taylor was guilty of felony murder and of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Arthur.
Unlike first-degree murder, in which prosecutors must prove that a defendant's conduct was "willful and deliberate," felony murder requires only that the prosecutor prove a killing took place while a felony, such as a rape or an armed robbery, was being committed.
The jury also convicted Taylor on every gun count - 10 in all. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 10.
Even as he left the courtroom in handcuffs yesterday, Taylor told the lead detective, Charles Bealefeld, that he was "an innocent man. I hope you're happy now."
"Have a nice day," Bealefeld replied.