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Police Say Hit Man, Age 17, May Have Been Involved In 10 Murders

July 30, 1988

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Authorities say the shooting death of a boyish-looking 17-year-old ends the criminal career of a drug dealer and hit man who may have been involved in 10 murders, but his mother says police have it all wrong.

Rakie Cloyd, gunned down Thursday night at a housing project with four shots to his back and the back of his head, was best known to police as a killer for a Richmond drug dealer, said homicide detective C.T. Woody.

″Seven homicides that he probably was the shooter in - 10 homicides that he was involved in,″ Woody told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. ″Sometimes he’d stand and tell somebody else to kill them.″

″He was small and quiet. Just sitting in the courtroom, you would think he was a little kid,″ said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Learned Barry. ″I’m afraid he’s kind of the wave of the future. Our killers are getting younger and younger all of the time.″

Woody said Cloyd’s age and appearance belied his criminal character.

″He would definitely hurt you,″ Woody said. ″He would do what his superiors told him to do and not care. They told him to kill. And he never really seemed to mind.″

But Cloyd’s mother, Barbara Taylor, said her son was a high school student who excelled in football and basketball.

″He wasn’t with no bad crowd of people,″ Ms. Taylor said in an interview at her apartment Friday. ″I wouldn’t be living here if my son were a dope dealer.″

″They’re trying to make my son look like a monster or an animal,″ she said. ″I don’t care ... I know the kind of person my son was ... a loving person.″

Police Maj. V. Stuart Cook said that in February 1987, Cloyd killed Herbert L. Cunningham, 20, with 17 shots from an Uzi submachine gun. Cloyd was charged as an adult with murder, but the charge was dismissed after a key witness failed to appear in court.

Cook said he is considering asking prosecutors whether to consider some of the 10 slayings cleared, meaning authorities believe they know who is responsible for the crime and the suspect is either dead or in prison.

Woody said he and his partner had told Ms. Taylor that they thought her son had killed several people and that he might be killed himself.

″She said we were wrong,″ Woody said. ″She said we had the wrong person. He got a lot of support at home. The family got angry with us.″

Barry said police were not the only people who expressed concern about Cloyd’s activities.

Barry said that on May 20, when he had to request that the Cunningham slaying charge against Cloyd be dropped, Circuit Judge James B. Wilkinson lectured the defendant.

″This is the first case I can remember, ever, where the judge took the time to tell him ’Either clean up your act or you’re going to get killed,‴ Barry said.

Because of Cloyd’s age, his juvenile court records are sealed by law, but one of the prosecutors for Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court expressed familiarity with Cloyd’s past when told of his death.

″We were expecting it last year,″ said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Pat Bell. ″I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. I’m really sorry it happened, but I’m not surprised.″

Police said they have no suspects in Cloyd’s death.

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