The Triple Murder Next Door
Three people were murdered at the home located at 507 Midway Drive in Lexington Park, Md. A sailor stationed at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station was charged and convicted for the savage murders on June 25, 1973.
I know the family that lived next door, raising their six children. When they heard the gunfire and a knock at their door amid the flashing police lights and sirens, the father answered the door with his .38 in his hand. His wife took the two children, who had escaped unharmed from the house, into their home to give them shelter. The account below is of what happened to the fourth adult in the home, Billy Craig, who escaped from an upstairs window. One of the children of the family who gave the orphans refuge on that night of terror told me that he had nightmares for years about that night. – Ken Rossignol
BILLY CRAIG’S CLOSE CALL – An excerpt from MURDER USA – TRUE CRIME, REAL KILLERS
The murder victim was lucky enough to escape the deadly triple murder that took place on Midway Drive in Lexington Park, Maryland, in 1973. Billy Craig was staying at a friend’s house after the couple who lived there returned from the White Point Tavern, a local redneck bar located about ten miles away from the murder scene on the shore of the Potomac River. A ruckus, not an uncommon event in redneck bars, took place between several people, and soon those involved went their separate ways – but would soon be reunited in bullets and blood. The offended man and woman did what many of the redneck druggie crowd of St. Mary’s County often did; they returned to their lairs, grabbed their guns, and went looking for revenge.
The pair then went to the home of those they had a dustup within the bar and quickly killed the couple they had tussled with at the White Point Tavern. They put the third candle on their cake of death when they blew away a visitor, not connected to the barroom beef, who had arrived that evening and was sleeping on the couch. Two children who were sleeping in an upstairs bedroom were unharmed, and Billy Craig barricaded himself in the second-floor bathroom and then escaped out a window.
On Aug. 11, 1977, Billy Craig’s luck ran out when Gerald Jameson used an automatic handgun to blast him four times, leaving life extinct. Jameson did so in front of two eyewitnesses, which are handy to have around, and clearly, Jameson forgot the old admonition passed down by pirate chieftains that “dead men tell no tales.”
At the first trial, the defense said that Craig had been “terrorizing” Jameson by making constant threats on his life.
The jury in the first trial did Jameson a favor in finding him not guilty of first-degree murder, as new charges of first-degree murder could never again be placed against him due to the factor of double jeopardy. However, the charge of second-degree murder was still available for the re-trial.
The three jurors who were cited by the defense to be challenged for their answers were Myrtle Henderson, Rita Blackistone, and Carroll Nash. They all three vacillated with their answers and should not have been included on the jury panel, ruled the appeals court. The twists and turns in the case were even more remarkable in that the three jurors never were included in the final jury. The actions of Judge Mattingly to deny the three challenges by the defense did cause the defense attorney to use up three of his peremptory challenges. Thus, the appeals court said that the challenge rights of Jameson’s defense were diluted.
The appeals court said in its ruling: “Any self-doubt expressed by a juror concerning his ability to render a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence should, at the very least, have been pursued by the trial judge. When they responded, ‘I don’t think so’ to the pivotal question posed by the judge, it is no answer to say ‘Who is to challenge whether or not they really meant what they said or not.’”
“I may be”, as the State seems to argue, that the expression ‘I don’t think so’ was simply a manner or mode of speaking that a layman may use in expressing the flat-negative answer ‘no.’ While there may be a gem of truth is required in assessing the prospective juror’s answer,” the court’s opinion stated. “There should be no shadow of a doubt in the court’s mind concerning the ability of the jurors to render an impartial verdict unsullied by any prior knowledge of the case.”
“It follows, therefore that (Jameson’s) convictions must be reversed for it is impossible to determine on this record whether he, in fact, was accorded a trial before an impartial, unbiased jury,” the ruling ended along with the order that the cost of the appeal is paid by the taxpayers of St. Mary’s County.
The issue of self-defense had been brought by Jameson’s attorneys, Charles Norris and K. Andrew Bailey. The defense attempted to paint a portrait of Jameson, 19 years of age, being terrified of Billy Craig to the point of boarding up his windows in his bedroom and carrying a gun. The defense duo had to come up with something to counter the eyewitness testimony that Jameson had shot Craig at point-blank range four times. The claim of Craig holding a kitchen knife apparently didn’t hold water with the jury that found Jameson guilty.
The acrimony between Billy Craig and Gerald Jameson began in a fight in a bar, true to the historic fiber of the blood feuds of the local redneck druggie culture of a growing part of the population of St. Mary’s County in the seventies.
At the first trial of Jameson, Ronald Evans, 24, of Lexington Park, told the jury that a fight took place on May 28, 1977, at the Oakwood Lodge in Piney Point. Evans said that Jameson had injured his leg in a motorcycle crash, and Craig gave Jameson a solid kick to his lame leg, and the pair began the typical hell-hole barfight to the death – with someone handing Craig a knife. Evans testified that he suffered a wild punch as he attempted to break up the fight. Just as in any self-respecting saloon brawl in the movies, Jameson found a board to use to smack Billy Craig, which resulted in Craig being sent to the hospital for a month.
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