City hit man sentenced for murder-for-hire scheme
How much would it cost to take a life? In Baltimore, the going rate was $5,000, according to a contract killer’s plea agreement with federal authorities.
Davon Sanford, 33, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to participating in a murder for hire and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Sanford was one of a group of four Baltimore men who have pleaded guilty to being willing to take on contracts to kill.
Federal prosecutors say Sanford participated in the killing in 2012 of Gregory Parker, 54, in East Baltimore. About 2:30 p.m. on March 16, 2012, someone approached a contract killer named Tavon Slowe about killing Parker for $5,000 because of a fight that had happened earlier in the month.
Less than two hours later, Parker was dead, shot several times in the 2300 block of E. Chase St.
Video surveillance showed Sanford running from the scene and climbing into Slowe’s Honda Accord, according to the plea agreement.
Sanford was not charged until this past June, a year after he was convicted in state court of fatally shooting a man in West Baltimore in September 2013. He is already serving 40 years in that case.
Court papers outline how the FBI and Baltimore police had been working to catch Sanford and other hit men by having undercover officers ask them to take on contract killings. They reached out to Slowe in April 2013.
“I need something done, yo,” the witness told Slowe, according to authorities.
“We can get a hot dog for you,” the man continued. Prosecutors said “hot dog” was code for a gun.
Slowe agreed to take the contact, and authorities set up a meeting with Slowe where an undercover officer was purportedly going to be supplied with guns. An arrest team would then move in and take him into custody. But Slowe didn’t show.
Slowe later told his brother, Derrick Smith, that he believed the person he was supposed to meet was an undercover police officer.
Authorities in January 2014 began pursuing Smith with the same fictional case they had tried to get Slowe to take on. Smith, according to his plea, agreed to take on a contract killing from an undercover officer in exchange for $5,000 and two watches.
An undercover officer and an informant gave him a cellphone and continued to interact with him. A man named Robert Harrison was later found in possession of the phone after being tracked with a stingray phone tracking device, authorities said. Harrison had been heard on a recorded phone call asking for “half up front.”
The use of the stingray device, which mimics a cellphone tower, had been concealed in Maryland until prosecutors acknowledged using it in the cases of Smith and Harrison.
After their attorneys challenged the use of the stingray without a warrant, both men entered guilty pleas in exchange for sentences of seven years, and four years and nine months — less than the penalty recommended under federal sentencing guidelines.