A Brooklyn, N.Y., man described by prosecutors as a "stone-cold killer" was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria yesterday to life without parole, bringing an end to the case against a drug gang accused of hiring the gunman who killed an Alexandria police officer.
Theodore Henderson, 19, was the last of four men convicted in a conspiracy and racketeering investigation into an Old Town crack house and the May 1989 slaying of Cpl. Charles W. Hill.
Officer Andrew Chelchowski, wounded in the incident that resulted in Hill's death, said after yesterday's sentencing that the drug gang "got what they deserved."
But Chelchowski, who carries more than 100 shotgun pellets in his leg from the incident, added that Henderson and the other conspirators "demonstrated quite clearly how little they value life" and would be "good candidates" for the death penalty should it be instituted for major drug crimes.
Hill's murder, which occurred after police responded to the taking of hostages at the Hopkins Court housing project, drew cries of outrage throughout the area and led to tougher laws allowing localities in several states to evict suspected drug dealers from public housing.
Two of Henderson's co-conspirators, Armstead Gravette, 28, and Bruce Murrell, 18, also received life sentences for their roles in hiring a gunman who took several people hostage to collect a drug debt from an Alexandria crack dealer and later shot Hill in the face.
Eddie Jackson, the fourth defendant and the 18-year-old dealer who owed Henderson $3,800, is serving 20 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam O'Grady asked U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton yesterday for the maximum penalty, emphasizing Henderson's violent past. Noting Henderson's five prior convictions, O'Grady said Henderson "graduated to stone-cold killer at a very early age" and tried to kill an Alexandria man "over a $75 debt the day before Cpl. Hill's death."
O'Grady reminded the court that Henderson was responsible for "an event that will live in the minds of this community forever."
Gary Kohlman, Henderson's attorney, said his client will appeal the conviction and asked only that Henderson be sent to a prison not far from his family in New York.