Duarte area gang members who welshed on paying for a load of drugs and instead turned on their supplier are behind the slayings of a Los Angeles gang kingpin and his friend, authorities said this week.
After a three-month investigation, Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators broke what had been a baffling crime: the Jan. 30 deaths of Keith Cardell Thomas, 30, of Los Angeles, and Daniel J. Chapman, 28, of Seattle.
Their hands bound behind them, the bodies of Thomas and Chapman were found in a Ford Explorer that was abandoned in an avocado grove in the upscale Rancho Duarte area at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, an area of $300,000 homes.
Thomas, known as Stone, was one of the oldest leaders of the Rollin' 60s Crips, which has roots in the Crenshaw District dating back to the 1970s. Dubbed an "O.G.," original gangster, Thomas used his drug trade earnings to live in a gated home in Windsor Hills, authorities said. He was the main supplier for the Du-Roc Crips, a 15-year-old gang that takes its name from a combination of Duarte and "Rock Town," an area of mostly rock quarries east of Monrovia.
Using fingerprints found in the Explorer and information from informants, Sheriff's detectives arrested four alleged Du-Roc members on April 29: Anthony Fitzpatrick, 24; Lamar McDaniels, 18; Travis Berry, 26, and J. C. Ware, 19, all of unincorporated Duarte, officers said.
They were charged with murder, but their arraignments have been delayed because of the rioting in Los Angeles.
"Thomas had no anticipation what his fate was to be when he drove away . . . to see these people," Sheriff's Lt. William Sieber said. "He brought someone (Chapman) with him who he thought would be safe. . . . But he became victim two in this execution-style murder."
On Jan. 30, Thomas, who had earlier given the Du-Roc members marijuana valued on the street at more than $10,000, returned to Duarte to collect payment for the first load and to drop off another, Sieber said. But the gang members had sold the drugs, spent the money and were waiting to kill Thomas.
"The sad thing about this case is that Thomas and Fitzpatrick were close personal friends," Sieber said. "Thomas had given him money, given him clothes, let him stay in his house, and the result of those acts of kindness were repaid by his execution."
Chapman did not belong to a gang, Sieber said. But investigators believe he might have been a contact for illegal narcotics from the Pacific Northwest. Chapman's mother, Diane, who still lives in the small stucco home in the Crenshaw District where her son grew up, disagrees. He was visiting her and had accepted a ride with his childhood friend, Thomas.
"My son died because he was a witness to a murder," she said.
Although she steered her son away from gangs, his death illustrates the difficulties faced by young black men in Los Angeles' toughest neighborhoods, Mrs. Chapman said. As a teen-ager, Chapman was bused to school in the San Fernando Valley. At 17, he joined the Navy after a close friend was killed in a gang-related shooting, she said.
"He was shaken," Mrs. Chapman said. "He said, 'Momma, I can't stay here.' He was scared to stay here."
When he was discharged in 1983, Chapman, who was considered a "square" in the neighborhood because of his anti-gang stance, returned to discover that many of his childhood friends were dead or in jail, his mother said. So, he eventually moved to Seattle, where he married and was raising four children.
The murder suspects' arrests the day of the Rodney G. King verdicts was the only good news in a week that saw rioters rampaging in her neighborhood, Mrs. Chapman said.