Investigators probing the cocaine death of basketball star Len Bias have located a safe, stolen during an armed robbery of a Bladensburg apartment, that police believe belonged to Brian Lee Tribble, who was indicted last week on drug charges stemming from the Bias case, sources said.
Police found the empty safe last week near Patuxent River Park in southern Prince George's County after receiving information from an anonymous tipster, sources said. Investigators have received statements that the safe had contained $60,000 in cash and about $100,000 worth of cocaine, according to sources.
The safe was taken from an apartment on Annapolis Road about 90 minutes after Bias collapsed in his dormitory suite on the University of Maryland's College Park campus on June 19, police sources said. Police have identified one of the two women who lived in the apartment, Julie Walker, as a girlfriend of Tribble's.
Tribble, 24, a former University of Maryland student and a close friend of Bias', has been at the center of the county grand jury's continuing five-week criminal investigation into the circumstances leading to Bias' death from cocaine intoxication and alleged drug use by University of Maryland athletes. Tribble was indicted by the county grand jury last week on four drug charges and surrendered to authorities Monday morning. He was released on bond from the Prince George's County Detention Center yesterday.
The robbery at Walker's apartment occurred about 8 a.m. on June 19, according to Bladensburg police. About 6:30 a.m., Bias collapsed in his dormitory suite while celebrating his selection in the National Basketball Association draft by the Boston Celtics. With him in the suite were Tribble and Maryland basketball players Terry Long and David Gregg, law enforcement officials have said. Long and Gregg also were indicted by the grand jury last Friday.
Investigators have received information that shortly before Bias collapsed, Tribble warned him that he was using too much cocaine and should take it easy, sources said. But, sources said, Bias replied: "I'm a bad expletive . I can handle anything," according to information presented to authorities.
Bias then began to lean back and Tribble called out, "Don't lean back, don't lean back," sources said, at which point the 22-year-old all-America began to shudder, then collapsed.
About 6:32 a.m, police said, a man who identified himself as Brian Tribble called the county's 911 emergency number asking for help.
Maryland's chief medical examiner said that Bias collapsed soon after ingesting cocaine of unusual potency.
Walker and her roommate, Gail Diamond, testified before the county grand jury that indicted Tribble, Long and Gregg.
Tribble was released from the county detention center last night after a Prince George's circuit judge reduced his bond to $75,000. Tribble had been held in lieu of a $250,000 bond since his surrender.
Judge Joseph S. Casula had set Tribble's bond at $250,000 on Friday after the grand jury returned a sealed indictment charging Tribble with distribution of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine and PCP.
William Cahill Jr., Tribble's attorney, said yesterday he will enter a plea of not guilty to the charges this week.
Tribble's mother Loretta, who appeared at her son's hearing yesterday, was critical of the investigation, which she said included "lies and insinuations" about her son. "From the beginning it's been all screwed up," she said. "This whole thing is screwed up."
Long and Gregg also were indicted on one count each of possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice. Long and Gregg are to be arraigned on Aug. 8.
The distribution charges are felonies. Possession and obstruction-of-justice charges are misdemeanors.
Judge Robert J. Woods said in court yesterday that he did not know why Casula had set a high bond on a drug distribution case, but Woods said Casula apparently had access to information in the investigation that he did not.
Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey Harding, who argued against the bond reduction, would not say what information was presented to Casula. Without elaborating, Harding said, "Our investigation revealed that Tribble could make the $250,000 bond." Harding added that Tribble drives "a late-model Mercedes-Benz" and runs his own business.
Harding noted that Tribble may not return for court appearances because Tribble faces "substantial incarceration" -- up to 44 years -- if he is convicted.
Cahill, who asked that Tribble be released without bond, said Tribble had only two previous arrests, both shoplifting charges that were dropped. Tribble's only other charges were five traffic convictions for speeding, Cahill said.
Tribble was able to earn up to $9,000 a year through his furniture cleaning and upholstery business, which contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Cahill said. Tribble earned other income through working with his father, Cahill said.
Tribble financed about $22,000 of the $27,600 price of his used 1979 Mercedes, Cahill said, after getting a $10,000 trade-in on a 1984 Volvo and about $3,000 cash from his mother, who had been holding money Tribble received in a settlement of a personal injury lawsuit.
"I don't think he's the only young person who bought a car he couldn't afford," Cahill said of the Mercedes.
Woods reduced Tribble's bond to $75,000 surety, which means Tribble could be released from custody after paying about $7,500 to a bail bondsman. Woods said the surety bond "would better ensure" that Tribble would show up for future court appearances.
With a surety bond, a bondsman must pay the court the full amount of the bond -- in this case $75,000 -- if the defendant fails to appear.
Staff writers Joseph E. Bouchard and Sally Jenkins contributed to this report.