Conrad Shelton pretty much knew he would be killed. On Feb. 11, 1996, Shelton, a crack cocaine addict who scored his coke by doing odd jobs, washing cars and running errands for two men who operated a crack ring in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia, told a friend that if he didn't report to the drug dealers' apartment in Southeast Washington as they ordered him, the dealers would come to where he was and kill everyone there.
"Damn," he told his friend, according to court papers, "they're mad at me."
Shelton, 32, was killed that day -- shot 12 times in the face and body at close range by two guns. The first shot was to the face, which killed him, according to testimony in the case.
"The reality is Conrad Shelton was killed by people who were extremely angry with him, so much so they continued to shoot long after further bullets were necessary," Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Barnett told the jury in his closing argument in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in February.
Yesterday, Thomas E. Smith Jr., 33, of Temple Hills and Tyrone B. Smallwood, 34, of Forestville were sentenced to life in prison by Judge T.S. Ellis III for Shelton's slaying. Smith and Smallwood were given an additional 10 years in prison for using a firearm during the murder; Smith was also given a second life sentence for conspiring to distribute cocaine.
"This brings justice to a cold case," U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said in a statement. "Smith and Smallwood were walking the streets thinking they got away with murder, but now they will never walk the streets again."
Smith and Smallwood were arrested last year as part of a complex investigation into a well-organized, sophisticated drug operation in which crack was sold in Maryland and the District and the drug money was laundered in Northern Virginia through the purchases of luxury SUVs. Some of the vehicles were customized with hidden compartments used to stash guns and drugs, according to the court documents. Guns and drugs also were stored in an apartment in Alexandria, according to documents.
Although Shelton was slain in the District, the case was prosecuted in Northern Virginia because the death was part of the drug conspiracy that operated partly in Virginia.
According to court documents, Shelton was killed because Smith and Smallwood suspected that he had stolen drugs and money from them. In April, Anthony Brown was sentenced to 30 years to life for serving as a lookout during the slaying.
Brown testified that the bullets came in such a furious flurry from two handguns that one shot fired by Smith ended up in Smallwood's foot.
Shelton was shot in an alley near Fifth and O streets NW, according to court documents. A friend of Shelton's said he was nervous about going to meet the two drug dealers. A few days before he was killed, Shelton was beaten by Smith for "slipping a few bills" from Smith's money bundles, Smith told the FBI on July 24, 2001. Smith told the FBI that he often beat Shelton and that Shelton took the beatings and kept coming around to do the odd jobs in exchange for crack cocaine, according to court documents.
But on the day he died, Shelton knew he was in for more than just a beating. "He stated he was going to die," a friend who was with him said, according to court documents. "He said, 'They are going to kill me.' He stated he was going to [Smith and Smallwood's place] and they told him to be there at 3:00, not 2:59 or 3:01, but 3:00 or they were going to come over here . . . and kill him, kill everyone, leaving no witnesses."