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Press Release

Member Of Cherry Hill Group ‘Little Spelman’ Pleads Guilty To Racketeering Conspiracy, Including Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland

Murdered a Drug Rival and Helped a Conspirator Murder a Rival Drug Gang Member

Baltimore, Maryland – Dontay Purnell, age 27, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, related to his drug dealing and violence in the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge William P. McMullan of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division; Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.

“Many of the shootings and murders in Baltimore City result from disputes between rival drug gangs,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Thanks to a lengthy and intensive investigation, we will hold accountable the criminals who turned Cherry Hill into a war zone.”

According to his plea agreement, from at least 2003 to 2013, Purnell was a member of a group known as “Little Spelman” in the “down the hill” area of Cherry Hill. This group committed robberies, homicides, non-fatal shootings and distributed crack cocaine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. As a member of this group, it was foreseeable to Purnell that the Little Spelman group was responsible for distributing at least a kilogram of heroin, five kilograms or more of cocaine, 280 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of marijuana.

In addition to selling drugs, Purnell was recruited to shoot and kill a drug rival, Vincent Paige, in order to expand the group’s drug territory. On April 20, 2006, Purnell approached Paige on the 3400 block of Spelman Road in Cherry Hill and told him he could no longer sell drugs there. Paige said he would be back and Purnell saw him go to a stash location where Paige stored drugs and weapons. Purnell approached Paige and shot him three times, killing Paige.

On April 9, 2011, Little Spelman group member Davon Martin shot and killed Dwight Taylor at a barbershop on W. Saratoga Street in Baltimore. Dwight Taylor was a member of a rival drug group operating in Cherry Hill known as “Up Da Hill.” His murder was in retaliation for a previous murder of another Little Spelman group member. Purnell assisted Martin by serving as the lookout, standing on the corner of Park Avenue and Saratoga Street, while Martin murdered Taylor inside the barbershop. Purnell also helped Martin flee the scene and dispose of some of Martin’s clothes.

Purnell faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III has scheduled sentencing for August 8, 2014, at 9:00 a.m.

Davon Martin, age 25, of Baltimore, Maryland pleaded guilty on April 24, 2014 to his participation in the racketeering conspiracy, including two murders. Martin and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement he will be sentenced to between 30 and 35 years in prison. Judge Russell has scheduled Martin’s sentencing for July 18, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the ATF, Baltimore Police Department, and Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and thanked the FBI, Baltimore County Police Department, Anne Arundel County Police Department, and Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Andrea L. Smith and Brooke Carey, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

Updated January 26, 2015