NORTH EAST, Md. – Police have arrested and charged five people with first-degree murder and other felonies in connection with a drug-related robbery in which a teen was gunned down inside his North East apartment and one of the suspects was critically wounded, police reported.
Investigators identified four of suspects in Tuesday's slaying of 19-year-old Kenny Lee Curry as Tabitha Crystal Nelson, 23, of the 100 block of Hollis Circle near Elkton; Angela Lynn Williams, 22, of the 100 block of Harmony Chapel Road in Conowingo; Devon Tyler Lee Ellwood, 18, of the 200 block of Mackall Street in Elkton; and William L. Dodson, 21, of Rosedale.
The fifth suspect is 25-year-old Aberdeen resident Justin Leander Jones, who remained under police guard at Christiana Hospital in Delaware on Wednesday, police said. Jones, who remained in critical condition, suffered two gunshot wounds during a struggle amid the robbery in Curry's apartment at 302 E. Cecil Ave., which stands on a lot adjacent to North East Middle School, police added.
Each of the five suspects is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, armed robbery and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence, according to Cecil County District Court records, which also list six additional conspiracy charges mirroring the six primary felonies.
All but the hospitalized Jones initially were held without bond in the Cecil County Detention Center.
After bail review hearings on Wednesday, Ellwood remained jailed without bond while the judge reduced the bonds on Dodson, Nelson and Williams to $750,000 each, court records show. All remained jailed as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators identified Ellwood as the gunman that fatally wounded Curry in the torso about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday during a home-invasion-style robbery orchestrated mainly by Dodson, who, as part of the plan, arrived alone at Curry's apartment to buy drugs from him before signaling his four lurking accomplices to storm the home, according to Lt. Michael Holmes, a Cecil County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
“Mr. Curry had been selling drugs, marijuana and heroin, and the suspects knew him as a drug dealer,” Holmes said, adding, “Mr. Curry was a drug dealer and that was the premise for the armed robbery.”
Curry was inside his apartment with three other people — a 20-year-old man, an 18-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl — when Dodson showed up and bought an unspecified type and amount of drugs from Curry, police reported.
Moments after that transaction, Dodson set the plan into motion, according to police.
“He sends a text message to one of the suspects. When he opens the (apartment) door as he's leaving, the other four suspects come running into the residence,” Holmes said.
Those four suspects — later identified as Nelson, Williams, Ellwood and Jones — wore ski masks, police said, adding that Ellwood and Jones brandished handguns.
“They placed the four victims on the floor and said, 'Hand over the stuff',” Holmes said, explaining that the suspects directed the order at Curry and that “stuff' implied money and drugs.
After Curry maintained that he had no drugs, Jones started pistol-whipping Curry in the face, police said. At some point, police added, Curry was able to snatch the handgun from Jones and then shot Jones twice in areas of his body that, as of Wednesday, hadn't been specified by investigators.
Ellwood then shot Curry in the torso within seconds after Curry shot Jones, according to Holmes, who reported that the four suspects ran from the apartment — but not before finding a Mason jar containing marijuana inside the residence and stealing it.
Dodson drove Jones to Union Hospital in Elkton, where their arrival immediately raised suspicions among the medical staff, police said. Because they were treating a possible assault victim, doctors mandatorily contacted the Elkton Police Department, which sent officers to the emergency room, police added.
As it turned out, Sheriff's Office detectives and deputies were alerted about the freshly-wounded patient at Union Hospital while they were handling the crime scene inside Curry's apartment, where the three uninjured victims gave a suspect description that matched that of the wounded man at Union Hospital, police reported.
“We were able to link that victim's wounds back to the incident that occurred in the (Cecil Avenue) apartment,” Holmes said Tuesday, elaborating that witness accounts and other information helped investigators develop Jones and Dodson as suspects.
EPD officers detained Dodson before releasing him into the custody of Sheriff's Office detectives, who arrested and charged him on Tuesday, police said.
Jones was transferred to Christiana Hospital, where he remained under police guard on Wednesday. Jones is facing the same 12 felonies as his four alleged accomplices, but, because of his medical status, he technically has not been arrested, police added.
Witness interviews and collected evidence led to the arrests of the remaining three suspects, according to police.
Officers arrested Nelson during daylight hours on Tuesday after finding her in the parking lot of the Elkton Motel on Maloney Road near Elkton; they captured Williams during daylight hours on Tuesday after locating her at a residence on Superior Court in the Lakeside Mobile Home Park near North East; and Ellwood was taken into custody after police tracked him to a residence on Fletchwood Road, north of Elkton, on Tuesday night.
Holmes noted that Sheriff's Office detectives and deputies were assisted by Maryland State Police, the North East Police Department and the Elkton Police Department throughout the investigation.
Detectives recovered a handgun inside Curry's residence, according to Holmes, who declined to specify the caliber or say if investigators believe it is the weapon that had been carried by Jones or Ellwood.
Holmes also reported that detectives have executed several search warrants during this murder investigation. He declined to say what, if any, evidence was found.
Dodson, Ellwood, Nelson and Williams are scheduled for preliminary hearings on Oct. 23, according to court records.