cold case

Family Learns Men Initially Charged in 1981 Homicide Never Went to Court

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Four decades after the manager of a Silver Spring, Maryland, store was shot during a robbery, his family has learned the two men initially charged in the killing never spent even one day in court.

On March 27, 1981, 28-year-old Robbie Lamp was working inside the Hillandale Grand Union Store when two men walked in and announced a robbery. By all accounts, Lamp did what he was told, leading the men to the safe and getting down on the ground.

“I heard the shot but I did not know what happened because I did not hear Robbie make any noise when he got shot, but I didn’t know he got shot, but there definitely was a shot,” said Tom Ponton, who was working in the Grand Union that night and witnessed the killing on the ground next to Lamp. “But for some reason, don’t ask me why, I did not put two and two together. But then I heard one person say to the other, ‘That was stupid.’”

A few months ago – still troubled by the crime all these years later – Ponton asked News4 to help him find out what happened to the men who were arrested.

“My coping mechanism with this has almost been to, like, almost disassociate myself from the event itself,” he said. “I don’t know how to put it. I’ve deadened those emotions.”

Ponton also got in touch with Lamp’s brother Olen.

The search for information began three-and-a-half months ago with Ponton, Olen Lamp and News4 digging into records, filing a Freedom of Information Act request, tracking down the two original detectives and poring through court records.

“We met with a couple of people from the cold case division, and they are going through it, and they’ve been looking at it for the last couple weeks, but there’s nothing that stands out that’s already in the file that would lead them to actively pursue the case again,” said.

A few weeks after the killing, police announced they charged Leroy Jenkins and Lawrence Dudley with the murder. The police report said the men had been indicted. The date on the report was October 1981 – seven months after the homicide.

But nothing in court records indicates Jenkins and Dudley ever were indicted or went to trial.

That same week in 1981, police in Silver Spring were investigating the murder of a police officer and a security guard at one store and the shooting of a Safeway store manager. Detectives indicated they were working on the theory the same group of men were responsible for all three crimes. Those two cases were closed with convictions.

Jenkins and Dudley were only charged in Lamp’s death, but a deputy state’s attorney said Jenkins and Dudley were never indicted for the murder.

“Today was the first substantive conversation we’ve had with anybody with the Montgomery County Police Department or the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for 42 years,” said. “Our family was never contacted about the case.”

“Forty-two years, always wondered what happened, and I certainly know a lot more than I did six months ago, but there’s still a lot of questions,” Ponton said.

Lamp was the father of a young girl and happily married when he was killed.

All these years later, his brother still thinks of something that he heard at Lamp’s funeral.

“At his funeral there was a young lady who he graduated with from high school, and as she was coming through the line to speak with the family – and I will never forget this – she was struggling to find the words to say about my brother, and all she could get out was he was a good guy,” Lamp said.

A good guy who never saw his daughter grow up to be a teacher and the mother of three.

From dates of birth included in the police records, News4 learned Jenkins died in the early 1990s and Dudley is still alive. Efforts to reach Dudley have not been successful.

Lauren DeMarco, spokesperson for the state’s attorney, said if the case was presented today with the evidence they had at the time, Jenkins and Dudley would not have been charged.

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