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Police: Drugs Had Been Found in Slain Pastor’s Old Home

December 28, 1994 GMT

TOWSON, Md. (AP) _ A pastor killed Christmas Eve was known to church members as kindhearted and dedicated. Police in his former hometown suspected he was a drug abuser and dealer.

James Thomas Wood, 24, surrendered Sunday and confessed to killing the Rev. Samual Booth. Wood said he stole $77 and about $40 worth of crack cocaine from Booth after the slaying. Wood’s mother claims the minister supplied drugs to her son.

Wood was ordered held without bail Tuesday. At the time of the killing, he was on parole for armed robbery in Tennessee.

Before Christmas Eve services, Wood stabbed Booth to death in the pastor’s trailer home behind his church in Middle River, police said. Booth had moved to the Baltimore suburb several months ago from Bel Air, about 25 miles northeast.

Bel Air police said a raid last year on Booth’s former home turned up traces of drugs and paraphernalia, including syringes and pipes.

″The information from informants was that he was supplying and abusing drugs along with others in that home,″ Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said. ″He had a habit of bringing in numerous people who were known drug users between the ages 18 and 25, mostly young single males.″

Charges were dropped to give a grand jury more time to develop a stronger case against Booth, Matrangola said. The investigation was put on the back burner when Booth moved.

Baltimore County police found no drugs in Booth’s new home in Middle River, police Cpl. Kevin Novak said. ″This is a homicide investigation and not a narcotics investigation,″ he said.

Wood’s mother told The (Baltimore) Sun her son had a drug problem. She accused Booth of supplying her son and others with drugs.

″We’ve been dealing with this man for six years now, trying to get him to stay away from our son and a lot of other kids,″ Joyce Lee Wood said. ″But they kept going back to him - and he kept giving them drugs.″

Members of the Christian Faith Tabernacle Church in Middle River reacted angrily to the allegations against Booth.

″He reached out to these people to try to get them on the right road and it’s just devastating because I know what everyone is saying is a lie,″ said Kitty Garcia, who publishes the church newsletter.