Karen Holloman opened the door of her uncle's apartment with his best friend, Larry Young, a step behind. As they edged inside, she looked to her left and saw the end of her uncle's bed and his motionless feet.

"He's been in here asleep all along," Holloman muttered, for a moment annoyed at the worry he had caused by not answering his phone. Her anger froze as she entered his room: The Rev. Marvin Moore lay dead in his bed, a bullet hole through the back of his head, a pool of blood gathered beneath his limp arm.

That discovery seven years ago was the start of a lingering mystery that clouds the political star of one of Maryland's influential political figures, Sen. Larry Young (D-Baltimore).

The unanswered questions about the slaying and its investigation periodically boil up to vex Young, 47. Recent stories in local papers have mentioned the case, and Young went on a Baltimore radio station last weekend to rail against reporters asking questions about it.

He called for a "Media Review Committee" and a "Center for Harassment." He said the white media are seeking to discredit black politicians.

"It's not because of the personality of Larry Young. It's broader; it's bigger than that. It's about the whole scope of what's going on," Young said on WOL Radio, broadcast in Baltimore and Washington.

The tale of the slain minister and the suspicions that fell on Young, his friend and confidant, is a complex one filled with dead ends and missing pieces. It is one in which the senator's position loomed large in the minds of many involved in the investigation, and they now differ about whether the case was handled fairly or whether top officials shied away from aggressively pursuing the case because a state senator was involved.

Confidential police and grand jury reports, and interviews with those involved, now offer a more detailed picture of those events.

Young responded to a written request for comment with a statement from his attorney, Nelson Stewart: "For whatever reason, the newspapers seem to be on a campaign to smear {Young's} name. . . . He doesn't want to participate in whatever the newspapers are planning. If the appropriate authorities want to question him, he will cooperate."

Moore, 38 when he died, was a large, garrulous man who moved easily through several entwined circles in Baltimore. He was a promoter of gospel shows, an elder at an evangelical church, the former owner of a fashion modeling agency, an election judge and an occasional booking agent for a Baltimore social hall.

He was often at the side of Young, who has represented West Baltimore's poor, inner-city 44th District since he was 25 -- first in the House of Delegates and, since 1988, in the state Senate.

There he has slowly become a man of influence, as an ally of Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D) and more recently as an important vote-getter and fund-raiser for Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D). He is chairman of the legislative Black Caucus and has his thumb on patronage as chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee.

Young tapped Moore to work in campaigns, raise money and give advice on everything from the senator's political dilemmas to his wardrobe, according to those who knew both well. The two men saw each other often, socially and politically. Neighbors of Moore said that Young was a frequent visitor to Moore's apartment in the 600 block of West Franklin Street.

So on Saturday evening, May 19, 1990, when relatives of Moore had not heard from him in several days, they called Young to say they were worried. Young, who lived 12 blocks away, drove to Moore's apartment to meet a group that included neighbor Irvin Conway; Moore's niece, Karen Holloman; and Moore's sister, Hattie Holloman.

Karen Holloman, now a deputy sheriff in Baltimore, recalls using a spare key to get into the apartment. As she opened the door, nothing appeared out of place. Young, she later recalled, walked to the room where Moore had set up an office, while she went to Moore's bedroom.

When she saw Moore and the blood beside the bed, "I thought he had a stroke, and maybe he bled to death. But then I looked over the bed and saw a pillow. It had been folded -- doubled up. But I looked at the pillow and saw a little hole and a hair there. I said, Oh-oh.' "

The apartment complex soon was abuzz with police. Homicide detectives were called in, and they concluded that an assailant had folded a pillow over Moore's head and shot him once through the back of the head with a .357 magnum or .38 revolver. There was no sign of a struggle or forced entry, suggesting to investigators that Moore might have known his killer.

In a routine statement taken by investigators, Young said he had last seen Moore the previous Thursday and talked to him by telephone early Friday. Moore died Friday night or early Saturday, the medical examiner's report said.

The next week, Young delivered the eulogy and was an honorary pallbearer at Moore's funeral at his church, the United House of Prayer for All People. He was weeping as he talked of his former friend.

"They were so close, they were almost brothers," Karen Holloman said. "They were so close, they made a pact: They said if something happens to one of them, the other would take care of his mother."

Investigators had no leads in the slaying. But they soon received some puzzling information that appeared to contradict the routine report they had taken from Young.

A man who worked as an occasional chauffeur for Young, Cornelius "Jake" Jeffreys, then 23, told police that he had called Moore the evening before his body was found and that Moore had told him someone was at his apartment.

"He said he couldn't speak to me right now, because my buddy was there," Jeffreys testified under oath to a grand jury, according to a transcript of his testimony. "I knew who he was referring to. . . . Senator Larry Young," Jeffreys testified.

Jeffreys told the grand jury that he took a cab to Moore's apartment about 11 p.m. Friday and saw Young's car, a black Pontiac 6000, parked outside. He said he was surprised because "the senator normally don't hang around like that at night," according to the transcript of his testimony. Jeffreys said he knocked on the door, heard gospel music from within, and, getting no answer, left.

The next day, Saturday, he returned to Moore's apartment because he wanted to pick up athletic shoes he had left with Moore, he said. He knocked again and heard gospel music, but again got no response, he told the grand jury.

Young told police that he knew Jeffreys as an associate of Moore's, according to police reports. Jeffreys testified that he knew both men well and had worked for Young.

Jeffreys's account was enough to name Young as a suspect in the case, according to police reports, obtained by The Post.

Homicide Lt. Robert Stanton noted in a report to his superior four days after the killing that "the identity of this suspect has already been revealed to you and his name will not appear in this report." The report went on to note "the suspect's prominence" and said the investigation "is going to require a considerable amount of work before any action concerning the suspect can be taken."

Stanton went on: "The suspect has apparently lied about his relationship with the victim. He has also apparently lied about his relationship with our witness. Additionally, the suspect has lied about his last contact with the victim," Stanton said in the report.

Investigators moved cautiously.

Jeffreys's first statement to police contained "a number of inconsistencies," including his initial denial that he had visited Moore's apartment that night, according to a police report and an affidavit in the case. Police gave Jeffreys two polygraph tests, which concluded that he was truthful when he said he had nothing to do with the slaying, according to the investigators' reports. They searched, inconclusively, for fingerprints, forensic evidence and other witnesses. Police reports noted that jewelry was missing from the apartment, and a detective said they discovered later that the tape cassette was missing from the answering machine in Moore's office with any messages he might have received.

Young's attorney said last week that his client does not believe the police regarded him as a suspect. "He has never been a suspect and was never questioned as a suspect in this case," Stewart said.

Faced with the contradictions in statements, Baltimore homicide Sgt. Gary Childs called the city prosecutor's office and received written permission from Assistant State's Attorney Mark Cohen to "wire" Jeffreys. He planned to send the informant to Young to engage in a recorded conversation about the events the night of the slaying, according to a report later prepared by the Maryland special prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli.

But as Childs was getting the recording equipment out of the police locker, he recalls, Cohen called the homicide office with orders to stop the operation.

"He said, This is not your average guy. This is a senator,' " Childs recalled during an interview. Cohen later told Childs that Timothy V. Doory, chief of the state's attorney's violent crimes unit, had balked at the wiretap plan. Childs, a veteran squad leader who had been a homicide and narcotics detective for more than a decade, said he had never been ordered to stop a wiretap operation like that.

Cohen recently declined to comment, referring questions to a spokeswoman, who also did not respond. Doory, now a District Court judge, said in an interview that he was suspicious of Jeffreys's reliability. "My only specific recollection about this was that I knew I didn't trust Jake," Doory said.

But although he said his memory of the event was vague, Doory acknowledged that the decision not to allow a "body wire" on Jeffreys was affected by Young's political position.

"The police have a certain lack of sophistication," Doory added. "You have to be sensitive to other rights involved. Suppose {Jeffreys} walks in there and he starts picking up political talk? Where do we stand then? I consider it a problem. We want to pick up talk about homicide, not political talk. This is not the same as walking into a bakery and picking up talk about the price of hot cross buns."

Stuart O. Simms, then Baltimore state's attorney and now director of public safety for Maryland, said he "probably" was consulted about the decision to stop the recording, but he said he could recall no specifics.

The detectives on the case chafed at what they considered special treatment for a politician.

"The bottom line is that it would have been handled differently," said former homicide detective Kevin Davis, who worked on the case and is now an investigator in the Maryland attorney general's office. "If it was Joe the Rag Man instead of a politician, the investigation would not have had the problems it did."

Blocked from pursuing his only lead, Childs mentioned the case to the FBI, with whom he had worked on other cases. Childs says the FBI responded that it was interested.

According to Childs's written report, the agency was interested because "the FBI had recently been investigating the Senator and others." Federal agents were investigating the senator's campaign contributions and the fund-raising activities he sponsored, according to an FBI source.

Shortly before his death, Moore had been taken by the FBI to its office in Woodlawn, in suburban Baltimore, to talk.

Childs filed a report May 30 noting that FBI agent Dan Dreibelbus "has recently interviewed the victim in regards to an investigation currently being conducted by the FBI." No indictments have resulted from the investigation.

An FBI agent met with Jeffreys on May 31 and again on June 5 and got his pledge to help, according to police reports. FBI agents placed a wire on Jeffreys and recorded two conversations with Young, according to Montanarelli's later report.

But the effort stopped dead when the recorded conversation picked up conversation of a sexual nature, according to city and federal law enforcement sources. Then Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Jordan told investigators that the wiretap was too politically troublesome, according to those sources.

Jordan, who died of cancer last year, was worried about how the sexual content would affect the investigation, according to a federal source and two investigators. The current U.S. attorney for Maryland, Lynne A. Battaglia, declined to comment.

In the middle of the federal use of Jeffreys, Baltimore homicide detectives received a request from their superior that would later blow up in a grand jury investigation. Three days after the first federal wiretap, according to a report filed by Childs, the chief of the criminal investigation department, Col. George Christian, ordered Stanton and Childs to disclose the name of the informant.

"Stanton advised the chief that this individual was the cooperating individual in the case" and thus a request for his name was highly unusual, according to the report filed that day by Childs and obtained by The Post. "Christian advised the lieutenant that he was aware of this, but that the police commissioner wanted the information." The commissioner at the time, Edward V. Woods, was a close political ally of Young. In a recent interview, Christian, now retired, denied making the request. He said such a request would have been improper.

"I did not do that. I spent 37 years in the police department. I was an honorable policeman. I'm an honorable citizen. I won't do anything to tarnish that," he said.

Woods left the police department in October 1993 and was appointed to the Maryland State Parole Board in January. He said recently that he had not asked for the informant's name. "There's no way to explain it," he said of the contradiction between his account and Childs's report.

Jeffreys dropped out of investigators' sight for two years. When he resurfaced, he gave various, conflicting accounts of where he had been and why he left. Jeffreys also went back and forth about whether his belief that he had been exposed as an informant was the reason he disappeared. At the time, he also had an outstanding warrant for a probation violation.

In 1992, a city judge convened a special grand jury to investigate a variety of reports of possible favoritism in the Baltimore Police Department, including Christian's alleged request in the Moore case. The grand jury, which was not investigating the killing itself or possible suspects, called Christian and Woods to testify under oath about their actions. But the grand jury, operating on its own without a legal adviser, failed to ask either man directly whether Christian had demanded the informant's name.

Montanarelli said in confidential reports to the jury forewoman in 1993 and 1994 that the failure to ask Christian or Woods the direct question meant neither was at risk of perjury.

He said his review "could discern no motive for the . . . homicide officers to lie about {Christian's} request." But "absent any evidence of a corrupt motive, {Christian's} demand for the informant's identity does not constitute criminal conduct."

As a homicide case with no statute of limitations, the Moore case remains open. Police occasionally have sifted the old case for more clues. Two years after the slaying, they located a neighbor of Moore's who confirmed part of Jeffreys's account. She said she had seen Young's car in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 10 p.m. on the night before Moore's body was found.

Investigators did not question Young about that apparent inconsistency over his car, they said, because by then, detectives who had worked the case had left the homicide unit, and -- until Jordan's death last year -- they felt a federal investigation might still be pursued and they did not want to question Young in a way that would have impinged on that possibility.

In 1995, Baltimore homicide detectives received a tip on the case from an imprisoned informant, and federal investigators and the U.S. attorney's office tried to corroborate or refute the tip. They were unable to do so.

However, a recent Baltimore Sun article stating there are new leads in the Moore case caused another stir in the city. Sources familiar with state and federal investigations say there are no substantive developments in the case.

But stories like that haunt Young, who said he wants a media review committee to question reporters. "I want to get these folks in front of a committee of some persons who are hopefully above reproach . . . so we can let the people understand that this is being contrived," he said last weekend on the radio.

Most of the detectives on the homicide case have left the Baltimore Police Department. "It's pretty much over with," said Childs, who left to become an investigator for the Carroll County state's attorney.

Holloman, who keeps framed pictures of her uncle in her living room and his eyeglasses in a brass box, said she believes the investigation was unfairly aborted because of Young's position.

"Everybody was treating him with kid gloves. The police said they couldn't just go in there and talk to him like he's anybody," she said. "I think politics got in the way."

Young staked out his position on WOL radio. "I just want people to be very clear of one thing," he said. "I'm not going nowhere. I am standing firm, steadfast, unmovable, and I'll take these punches as they come." Doug Struck is a Washington Post staff writer. David Simon is a freelance writer in Baltimore. CAPTION: Sen. Larry Young (D-Baltimore) says the last time he saw the victim was two days before his body was discovered. CAPTION: The Rev. Marvin Moore was found shot to death in his apartment in 1990.