Two armed brothers who allegedly burst into a Clinton house Tuesday night, precipitating a shootout that killed the wife of the homeowner and one of the brothers, were members of the District's "5 N O Crew" and both have previous convictions for armed assaults, according to sources and court records.
The men, Vernard Jerome Mathis, 27, who was wounded in the shootout, and his brother, Tracy Norman Mathis, 29, who was killed, both were part of the loosely knit criminal group of 10 to 15 people who largely operate near Fifth and O streets NW, law enforcement sources said yesterday. The group specializes in robbing drug dealers and area residents, sources said.
Police sources previously have linked members of the group to more than 15 homicides. Four 5 N O Crew members, including the alleged leader, are in jail charged with the $4 million armed robbery of an armored car May 30 at Dulles International Airport.
A law enforcement source who has investigated the group has described the members as "violent . . . home-grown . . . stickup boys" who "would just as soon shoot people, as not."
Vernard Mathis, who is hospitalized at an undisclosed location with gunshot wounds in the abdomen and arm, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cynthia Develle "Tena" Logan, 42, who was hit in the side by a stray bullet that passed through a bathroom wall.
Defense attorney G. Allen Dale, who represented Vernard Mathis in a 1988 case in the District, said, "I can't comment" on allegations that Mathis is a member of the 5 N O Crew.
Gary Courtois, another defense attorney who represents Mathis on the pending murder charge, said last night, "I've heard those allegations, but I have not seen hard evidence to suggest it is true."
According to Prince George's County police, three armed intruders burst into the home of Logan and her husband, Youelle McCoy Logan, 57, about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Youelle Logan met the men as they were coming up the stairs and fired at them with a .357 magnum revolver.
Logan emptied his handgun and then picked up a shotgun and continued firing, according to police sources.
Tracy Mathis was struck in the face by a round fired from the revolver from a distance of about five feet. Vernard Mathis ran to a nearby house for help. The third intruder escaped and remains at large.
Under Maryland law, people may use firearms or other deadly force to defend themselves against intruders in their homes.
Both Mathis brothers lived with their mother in the 8100 block of Tiffany Lane in Lanham.
Records in D.C. Superior Court show that Vernard Mathis pleaded guilty in October 1989 to carrying a dangerous weapon as part of a plea agreement to settle drug and armed robbery charges against him.
According to an affidavit filed in support of his arrest in the armed robbery case, Vernard Mathis was identified as the man who cut out a screen in the living room on a house in the 100 block of Hawaii Avenue NE and shot the resident.
As part of the same agreement, Mathis pleaded guilty to possession of PCP in connection with charges filed after police executed a search warrant in Southeast Washington and found Mathis and 25 bags of marijuana laced with PCP.
Court records show that Tracy and Vernard Mathis were convicted of assault charges in the Aug. 6, 1985, beating of a man in the rear of the 200 block of 51st Street NE.
According to affidavits filed in court, the brothers abducted a man as he was returning from a 7-Eleven store on Sheriff Road NE, drove him to the 51st Street NE location and then beat him with their fists and a wooden club. The men then got in their car and drove away.
When Tracy Mathis was arrested on the assault charge, police found a Rugar .347 magnum from the floor near where Mathis was sitting in the passenger seat. Two loaded .38 caliber revolvers also were found in the vehicle, according to an affidavit.
D.C. Superior Court records also show that Vernard Mathis served 2 1/2 years in prison on a 1982 armed robbery conviction in Maryland. Staff Writer Paul Duggan contributed to this report.