|Big Mama sells drugs|
'Big Mama' dies awaiting trial
Friday, November 18, 2005
The 90-year-old matriarch of an extended Mobile,Alabama family accused of operating a one-stop shop for drugs out of their Clay Street house has died, authorities said Thursday.
Lucious Westry, who was being held at a federal prison in South Carolina awaiting trial in Mobile,Alabama was taken to the hospital and died Wednesday of apparent natural causes, said Cpl. Joe Wolfe of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Mobile,ALabama police and DEA agents raided Westry's house in June in an attempt to shut down what they described as a notorious drug market that had operated for years. Westry and 10 others faced multiple drug counts.
Wolfe said that Westry's death is unlikely to affect efforts to bring the rest of the defendants to justice.
"The rest of them, I think, are still going to trial," he said.
Two so far have pleaded guilty. Shannon Denise Jones, 36, and Samuel Beckham, 28, face minimum sentences of 20 years in prison and could get life if a judge determines that their activities were responsible for the death of a man who overdosed in November 2001. Both have agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities and have the opportunity to get lighter sentences as a result.
Armed with grand jury indictments, agents and local police stormed 406 Clay St. on June 30. Investigators said drug users could buy anything from illegal drugs like crack cocaine to a variety of prescription medications, including OxyContin, Dilaudid, Lortab, methadone and morphine.
Confidential informants and undercover police officers made and secretly videotaped numerous drug buys at the house, according to the indictment and testimony presented at the defendants' preliminary hearings.
A large, bespectacled woman with a crop of white hair, Westry, who went by the name "Big Mama," needed a wheelchair for mobility. She missed one court appearance when the elevator at the Baldwin County,Alabama jail -- where she initially was held after her arrest -- broke and corrections officers were unable to remove her from her third-floor cell.
Investigators maintained that Westry's physical appearance could be deceiving; they said they had video evidence that she personally sold drugs along with her younger relatives.