The color snapshots showed Norman Strong lying on a bed of leaves in Rock Creek Park, his hands and feet bound, his mouth gagged and blood streaming from a gunshot wound in his head. It was a contract killing, and the pictures were the gruesome proof the killer handed over to a man in the parking lot of a Southeast Washington restaurant to collect his money, $100 cash in a white envelope.
Early yesterday, two men were arrested and charged with hiring the "hit man," who actually was an undercover D.C. police sergeant from the Repeat Offenders Project. Strong, the supposed victim, had staged the photographs using fake blood and was reading magazines and watching cable television when the arrests were made.
In a hearing before Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer in U.S. District Court, Sgt. Donald Lyddane, aided by a videotape of the parking lot exchange and tapes of telephone calls, recounted how he had been hired to kill Strong, an 11-year-veteran of the D.C. Fire Department who is stationed at Engine Company 20.
According to Lyddane's testimony, Strong was dating the former girlfriend of one of the men, and a friend of the former boyfriend had acted as an intermediary in setting up "the execution."
About 2 a.m. yesterday, Vernard Dickson, 32, of 6323 Luzon Ave. NE and Stanley Winslow, 33, of 1102 Sumner Rd. SE were arrested at Georgia Avenue and Geranium Street NW in connection with the incident, police said.
Each was charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder for hire, according to court documents. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said it is apparently the first time that charge has been levied against persons in the District. They were being held without bond.
According to Lyddane's testimony and a criminal complaint filed by police, Lyddane received information that two men were interested in having someone killed and he posed as an out-of-town hit man to make contact with one of the men, identified in the documents as Winslow, on April 29.
According to a tape of that meeting that was played in court, Lyddane was told that the men wanted to have someone "wasted."
In subsequent telephone calls, some of which were taped, Lyddane was told the men would make a $100 down payment and pay him another $100 after Strong was killed, according to the documents and testimony. After receiving the down payment Monday, Lyddane contacted Strong, had him pose for the pictures, then placed him in a safe house.
During his investigation, and once while he was in Virginia, Lyddane said, he was contacted through a telephone paging device that displayed Winslow's telephone number, and he called Winslow to arrange details of the alleged plot.
After meeting a man and exchanging the pictures and money in a parking lot at South Capitol and I streets SE about 7 p.m. Tuesday, the man was placed under surveillance and followed to Maryland, where he met Dickson about six hours later, according to Lyddane's testimony. Dickson, who Lyddane said used to date Strong's girlfriend, and Winslow were arrested a short time later in the District, where police said they recovered two photographs of Strong's staged death from Winslow's briefcase.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. McDaniel said in court that because Winslow and Dickson met in Maryland after the supposed killing and because Lyddane's paging device was activated by radio signals transmitted from towers located in Maryland, Virginia and the District, the men should be charged with using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder for hire.