On September 25, 2007, the body of 24-year-old Keith Ray, Jr. was found under a pile of wood in a park in Baltimore, Maryland. He had been shot once in the head four days earlier.
Nearly a year later, in July 2008, Ray’s best friend, 20-year-old John Mooney, was charged with Ray’s murder.
Mooney went on trial in May 2010 in Baltimore Circuit Court. One prosecution witness testified that Mooney had drunkenly claimed he shot Ray. The witness testified that she told Mooney that everyone knew what he had done to Ray and that Mooney replied, “Yeah, I did it. So what?” Another witness said that shortly before Ray’s body was found, he saw Mooney and some other people at the edge of a wooded area near where the body was discovered.
A third prosecution witness said that Mooney, a man known as “Cappo” and a third man told him that they were out robbing people one night and discovered that Ray was carrying $2,600. The witness told the jury that Cappo hit Ray in the head with a rock, the third man rifled Ray’s pockets and then Mooney shot him.
On May 27, 2010, a jury acquitted Mooney of a charge of first-degree murder and failed to reach a unanimous verdict on a lesser charge of second-degree murder. The jury, however, convicted Mooney on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In January 2013, Kyle Stevens, whose nickname was Cappo, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges arising out of a federal investigation of a prison gang. During the investigation, the murder of Ray was discussed in telephone conversations that were captured on federal wiretaps. The conversations implicated Stevens in two murders, including the killing of Ray.
In August 2013, Stevens pled guilty to federal firearm charges and was sentenced to 32 years in prison. Stevens admitted that on September 21, 2007, he and another man shot Ray and that Mooney was not involved at all.
Stevens admitted that he and Kevin Bales had been hired by Thomas Penner, a drug dealer who had since died, to kill James Wright (who was murdered in January 2006) and Ray because Wright and Ray had burglarized and assaulted Penner several years earlier. Penner paid them a total of $20,000.
After Stevens pled guilty, Attorney Michele Nethercott filed a motion to vacate Mooney’s conviction. On March 13, 2014, prosecutors agreed that the conviction should be vacated and dismissed the charge, and Mooney was released.
– Maurice Possley