'75 case deserves another look
BY PHIL STANFORD
The Portland Tribune, May 9, 2006, Updated Oct 30, 2009
You may already know this part of the story: City homicide Detective Don DuPay gets a call to Northeast Hancock Street back in 1975, where there’s a 16-year-old black kid with a bullet hole in his forehead, lying on a bed in an upstairs bedroom. A .22caliber rifle was on his chest.
Uniform cops already on the scene say it’s a suicide. DuPay isn’t buying it. When he checks with the neighbors, they say they heard three shots. There are, he discovers, two other bullet holes in the room, one in the wall and one in the ceiling. Downstairs on the kitchen table are four glasses and a nearly empty whiskey bottle.
DuPay figures it’s a drug related execution. After whoever they are finish drinking, they take the kid upstairs and try to scare him. Plus there’s a minor problem with the rifle. The kid, Zebedee Manning was his name, couldn’t have shot himself in the forehead because he couldn’t have reached the trigger.
However, when DuPay starts investigating, his lieutenant tells him to back off. When DuPay, who, incidentally, is running for sheriff, goes ahead anyway, he’s transferred out of homicide. Anyway, that’s the short version of the story published in this space last month.
The day after it appeared, an excited woman named Marcella Lockett, Manning’s niece, she explained, was on the line. “We thought everyone had forgotten,” she said. “We never believed it was a suicide.”
That Saturday, Lockett and her mother Yvonne Lawrence, Manning’s older sister, met with DuPay and me, and when they’d finished talking, Manning’s death looked even less like a suicide.
As it turns out, Manning had some pretty high-powered connections for a 16-year-old
High school student. At the time of his death, he was, in fact, working for Henry Johnson, one of the city’s major heroin dealers. Through his sister, Lawrence, who’d been married to Johnson a couple of years earlier, they were actually shirttail relatives. Every afternoon, Johnson, who tooled around town in a Rolls Royce, would pick up Manning at the house on Hancock Street, then drop him off later that evening.
“Who’s that?” Manning’s mother, Annamae, would ask. “It’s just Henry,” the girls would answer. And then one September afternoon in 1975, Annamae came home from work to find the glasses and whiskey bottle in the dining room and Manning’s body upstairs.
After the cops left, she looked in the crawl space in his room and found several plastic bags full of brown powder, which she promptly flushed down the toilet. And what, you might ask; would even a well-connected 16-year-old junkie be doing with that amount of heroin?
As it happens, three weeks earlier Johnson had been arrested and held without bail, at which time he undoubtedly had to find someone to take care of his unsold merchandise.
So whoever killed Manning, if indeed he didn’t find a way to reach the trigger himself, was
undoubtedly looking for Johnson’s stash. And then there was the telephone call the day after the funeral, a white man’s voice on the other end, Lawrence says, warning them not to pursue the matter if they didn’t want another death in the family. Sounds to me like a job for the cold case squad.
Contact Phil Stanford by phone at 5035465166 or by email
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