A 19-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., man was sentenced in federal court yesterday to life in prison without parole for hiring the man who killed an Alexandria police officer a year ago after entering a housing project to collect a drug debt.
Bruce Murrell, already serving three years in the Lorton Correctional Center on a cocaine conviction, pleaded guilty in May to a racketeering count that included first-degree murder and attempted murder. U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton also sentenced Murrell to five years on a firearms charge.
Murrell admitted in court papers that in May 1989 he hired Jamie Martin Wise, an escapee from a District halfway house, to collect a $3,700 drug debt from Eddie Jackson at Jackson's Hopkins Court apartment north of Old Town.
Wise took Jackson hostage after police arrived, and shot Cpl. Charles W. Hill to death while trying to escape. The slaying caused a cry of outrage across the region and led to policies making it easier to evict public housing tenants who are involved in drug trafficking.
Jackson was sentenced last month to 20 years for his involvement in the drug conspiracy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam O'Grady argued yesterday that Murrell was a regular supplier for the Hopkins Court crack house and knew several people were in Jackson's apartment when he sent in Wise armed with a shotgun.
O'Grady said that the day before Hill's slaying, Murrell was present when Theodore Henderson, also of Brooklyn, allegedly fired four shots at a drug runner who owed them $75.
David B. Smith, Murrell's attorney, told the court his client did not intend for Wise to shoot a police officer and argued that "life was not necessary to express the community's outrage over what happened."
Attorneys said Murrell could reduce his prison term if he cooperated in the ongoing prosecution of Henderson and New York drug cases.