The year's youngest homicide suspect in Baltimore is charged with killing the year's oldest victim.
Police on Friday announced the arrest of Tyrone Harvin, who turned 14 last month, in the killing of Dorothy Mae Neal, 83. Harvin is accused of raping and then physically assaulting Neal, who police say died as a result of her injuries.
“Almost 70 years separate our victim and suspect,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said at a news conference Friday. “It’s sad all the way around. There’s some systematic failure in the 14-year-old’s life to allow us to be here talking about him being accused of murder and rape. It’s just a very tragic situation all the way around.”
Harvin, of West Baltimore, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, rape and additional counts including sex offenses and assault.
Murder, rape and sex offense are among the charges in which suspects 14 and older are automatically charged as adults in this state. Suspects charged with those offenses who are under 16 can ask a judge to move their case to juvenile court, which focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Youths held responsible for offenses are released by their 21st birthday.
Smith said Harvin is the youngest suspect city police have charged with murder this year, and possibly several years.
In 2016, Baltimore police charged then-15-year-old Prince Greene in the stabbing death of Robert Ponsi, who was bicycling home from work. Greene’s attorney successfully petitioned to have the case sent to the juvenile system.
On Aug. 29, Neal was found in her apartment, about a block from where Harvin lives, after a concerned neighbor called police.
The neighbor told The Baltimore Sun previously that she grew concerned after she did not see Neal for several days and called police.
Police went to Neal’s apartment in 2300 block of Winchester St., where she was found unresponsive and the victim of an apparent assault.
She was taken to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where she died the next day.
Smith said Neal died of blunt-force trauma. He alleged Harvin “beat her to death.” Smith said an autopsy determined that Neal had also been sexually assaulted.
Homicide detectives connected Harvin to the killing through physical evidence found at the scene, Smith said.
Police do not know of a motive. Smith said investigators believe Harvin might have been doing a chore for Neal when she was attacked. Police said there were no signs of forced entry into her basement apartment.
A woman who answered the door at Harvin’s apartment identified herself only as his mother and wouldn’t give her name. She said her son has been wrongly accused.
“I’m hurting because I know my son wouldn’t do nothing like this. I know my son,” she said, wiping away tears. “My son didn’t do it.”
The woman said she did not know the victim. She expressed frustration that police have not spoken to her and that her son was questioned without her being present.
A man at the apartment who would identify himself only as Harvin’s older brother said Harvin had recently been on GPS monitoring for charges from another incident. He said Harvin was no longer required to wear the monitor because he was doing what he was supposed to and was doing well.
A Department of Juvenile Services spokesman said Friday that confidentiality laws prevent the agency from releasing information about juvenile cases.
While Harvin turned 14 on Aug. 3, court records show, he had been previously mistakenly charged as an adult with armed robbery. According to charging documents in that case, Harvin attended the Connexions Community Leadership Academy in West Baltimore with another boy who told police Harvin robbed him.
The victim told police Harvin and another boy he did not recognize were wearing “superhero” masks on top of their heads and asked to see the victim’s cellphone. When the boy refused, police said Harvin and the unidentified boy began to throw rocks at the victim’s head, causing him to fall to the ground. The victim told police Harvin then went through his pockets, took his phone, punched him in the eye and left, the document said.
Court records show a “recall” of the arrest warrant issued for Harvin on Jan. 10. The charges were later dropped.
Smith said Harvin could not be charged as an adult for that offense because he was under 14 at the time. Its unclear whether Harvin faced juvenile charges, because such records are sealed from public view.
Neal’s family could not be reached for comment.
In recent years, Neal had traveled to her home state of Alabama, where she has family, but she did not have any relatives in Baltimore, said the Rev. Dianna Roy of 11th Hour Ministries on Frederick Avenue. She said Neal regularly attended her church for years and was also a missionary. She described Neal as a kind person.
“She had a giving spirit. I can’t understand why anybody would want to hurt her,” Roy said.
The neighbor who called police told The Baltimore Sun on Friday that she was relieved police had made an arrest. The neighbor did not want her name published out of concerns for her safety.
“I’m glad they caught him,” she said. “She’s in a better place.”