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Men to face trial on drug charges

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2001

Two men were held for court Monday on charges filed after police raided a Penn Hills home last summer and said they seized heroin, powder and crack cocaine, marijuana, firearms and cash.

Lamont Willis, 28, is charged with separate counts of possession of heroin and crack, both with intent to deliver, after the Allegheny County narcotics unit executed a search warrant at his Chaske Street residence shortly before 9:30 a.m. June 1.

A house guest, Dedric Ellis, 32, of Liverpool Street in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh, will stand trial on a charge of possession with intent to deliver cocaine and possession of a firearm with a specification of a prior felony conviction.

"We were told it was not his (Ellis') residence, but that he stayed there often," said county police Detective Donald Stritmatter, who provided the only testimony in a preliminary hearing for both men Monday before Penn Hills District Justice Leonard Hromyak.

Stritmatter testified that police found about 10 grams of crack cocaine on the dining-room table. Officers then discovered a locked safe in an upstairs bedroom and asked Willis to open it. As Willis did so, he acknowledged there were heroin and a gun inside.

Police found 184 individually wrapped bags of heroin - 179 of them stamped "Brain Damage" and five bags stamped "Tom & Jerry" - as well as a Glock pistol.

"Mr. Willis told me that he had strong-armed (robbed) a guy in Philadelphia and stole five bricks of heroin from him," Stritmatter said, adding that a brick contains about 50 individual bags.

"He said he was selling the heroin and the crack to make ends meet, to pay his bills," Stritmatter testified.

Police said they noticed what appeared to be marijuana on the floor of a black Ford Explorer parked in the driveway; Ellis said the vehicle belonged to his aunt. After giving officers permission to enter the vehicle, they said they found more than 20 grams of powder cocaine, $7,400 in cash and a Glock handgun under the seat.

Stritmatter said Ellis had asked that he be allowed to keep the cash. Police said they found another $4,560 in cash on Ellis and another $420 in cash on Willis.

Asked about the amount of money in his possession, Willis alternately stated that he "sold $12 steak dinners to people in his neighborhood" and that he had been up late playing dice, Stritmatter testified.

Stritmatter also testified that Ellis has an "extensive criminal record," with a prior felony drug conviction dating back to September 1991.

Both Willis and Ellis are free on bond.

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