Catherine Fuller murder case: could defendants in brutal '84 murder get a new trial?
David Fuller, Catherine’s husband, told the Washington Post in an October 1984 story that he had stopped eating and sleeping after his wife’s homicide. "They took a part of my life away," he said. "How can you describe that?"
“They” were a large group of young men. By the time of the Post story, police had already arrested Alphonzo Lamar Harris on felony murder. By December, Russell Overton, Levy Rouse, Timothy “Snot Rag” Catlett and Turner, all 19 years old, had been taken into custody, along with a 17-year-old whose name wasn’t released.
Charles Turner, 20, Calvin Alston, and Roland Franklin were also facing charges. At the time, it was the largest group of people arrested for a single homicide in the District, and police weren’t done yet.
Kelvin Smith, 19, was charged with felony murder in December 1984. Investigators thought the suspects were all members of the "Eighth and H Street Crew,” a gang that hung out near the H Street Corridor and near the Fuller home in Northeast. Those familiar with the area and its crowd weren’t buying it. Some told the Post that the arrests looked bogus and cops had been trying to crack down on the corridor for years without any success until Fuller’s death.
"I don't know where the police get this idea of gangs," a 19-year-old man told the Post. "I hang out with some of those guys sometimes. The police might arrest me next. I think that the police are pressuring one or two of those guys who really killed the lady to just drop every name they can think of."
Several people would stand trial for Fuller’s murder and a few more would take plea deals. The defendants entered the courtroom with Bibles in hand. They wore crisp, clean clothes and sported neat haircuts. "Like choirboys,” says Wade.
“(D.C. residents) looked at the children as somebody, some group of people who could have been their own brothers, their own sons, their own neighbors, and who could have turned on them without any warning whatsoever,” says Lillian McEwen, a defense attorney who worked on the case. “So it made the average citizen feel completely unsafe in their own neighborhoods.”
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