Drug Case Witness Seduced by Defendant's Girlfriend and Killed, Officials Say

Ora Patterson, the foster mother of Andre L. Hayes, discusses the circumstances of his death. Video by Del Quentin Wilber/The Washington Post
By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Andre Hayes's phone rang one October afternoon, and a mysterious woman was on the line. She had called the wrong number, she told him. But she didn't hang up. They bantered a bit. They flirted. She said he sounded nice.

Over the next week, they spoke or texted by cellphone more than 100 times. As he drove to meet her on Halloween night, they chatted for 29 straight minutes. And then, as he awaited their rendezvous in a dark suburban driveway, Hayes was shot dead.

It soon became obvious to investigators that the mystery woman had not been looking for love, according to federal authorities who have recently detailed Hayes's last days in court papers and at a hearing. In fact, they allege, she seduced the 32-year-old on behalf of her boyfriend, an accused drug dealer hoping to eliminate Hayes, a key witness against him in a federal drug case.

The intimidation and killing of witnesses happens with chilling regularity in the Washington area, federal and local authorities say. Since early last year, according to D.C. police sources, at least three witnesses have been killed on District streets as a result of their cooperation. Two weeks ago, Prince George's County officials announced that they had obtained indictments against two brothers on charges of conspiring to kill a crucial witness to another slaying.

In Hayes's case, a review of court papers and interviews with his friends and family provide a rare window into what federal prosecutors have described as a determined effort to eliminate a man whose testimony could mean years behind bars for an accused drug dealer.

"Andre Hayes went there because he was lured," Assistant U.S. Attorney Darlene Soltys said at a recent hearing in the District's federal court.

The woman, Tiffany Reaves, 30, of Upper Marlboro, has been indicted on a federal charge of conspiring to obstruct justice by killing a witness. The charge carries a potential sentence of death. Reaves's boyfriend, Weldon Gordon, 31, has been indicted on federal drug charges tied to undercover purchases made by Hayes on behalf of federal investigators. Gordon, who was free on personal recognizance at the time of the killing, was taken into custody in January on drug charges. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Gordon is easily identifiable as an unindicted co-conspirator in charging documents filed in Reaves's case. In court papers, prosecutors also wrote that Gordon "procured the unavailability of Andre Hayes, who was unquestionably, the government's principle witness against him."

Federal prosecutors, who declined interview requests, said in court last week that others would soon face charges.

Reaves's attorney, Shawn Franklin Moore, declined to comment, although he portrayed the evidence against his client as less than solid at a recent hearing. Relatives said they think Reaves is innocent. "She has integrity and morals," said Takiyah Wilson, Reaves's sister.

Gordon's attorney, Harry Tun, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

A Fatal Achilles' Heel

Hayes, a slick dresser with a sharp wit, was described as a fun-loving guy who doted on his relatives and three daughters. But close friends said he also had a weakness: women.

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