- Rick McCrabb Staff Writer
Police believe the three men charged in the murders of two Middletown residents are part of a gang called Cincinnati White Boys.
Testifying during a preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon, Middletown Detective Steve Winters said Charles Ray Graham, 27, of 2002 Pearl St., Doug Best, 28, of 402 Richmond St., and Derrick Brown, 22, of 815 Crawford St., were members of the Cincinnati-based gang.
All three men are charged with two counts of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated arson and one count of kidnapping in last month’s deaths of Tiffany Hoskins, 36, and Joseph Romano, 47, both of Middletown.
Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall has bound their cases over to the Butler County Grand Jury and ordered them held without bond.
Middletown Police Lt. Jimmy Cunningham called the gang members “dangerous and violent” and encouraged anyone with information about the gang to call Middletown police.
There was a large police presence in the courtroom Thursday, with two Middletown detectives and a police officer standing between the three defendants and the audience. At times, Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw also was in the courtroom.
Family and friends of the three defendants sat on one side of the room, and those who knew Hoskins and Romano sat on the other. Several times during the testimony, those who knew the two deceased broke down and cried.
As the three defendants were led out of the courtroom shackled and handcuffed, someone yelled, “Love ya, bro!”
That upset Wall and he quickly cleared the courtroom. There were several police officers in the hallway and outside the City Building.
Throughout the hearing, the men sat quiet at the table, except to whisper to their attorneys. Best is represented by Chris Atkins; Brown by Brad Kraemer and Graham by Jimmy Calhoun.
Winters said four shots were fired at Romano on Nov. 4, three of them striking him in the chest, leg and neck. He said Romano was killed in his kitchen at 1517 Lafayette Ave., and Hoskins was found shot inside a home at 1507 Jacoby Ave. a few hours later.
In the early morning on Nov. 5, Middletown firefighters were called to the Jacoby Avenue residence and found flames shooting from the second floor. They found Hoskins’ body at the top of the home’s stairway.
She was identified, Winters said, by the number on her pacemaker that was implanted years ago in a Dayton hospital and her tattoos that were matched from a previous arrest. During last week’s arraignment, police said Hoskins was raped, shot in the back of the head, doused with bleach and gasoline, and lit on fire in hopes of covering the crimes.
Winters said police believe the same gun was used to kill Romano and Hoskins, though they have been unable to locate the weapon allegedly used.
Brown told police that he acted alone and shot and killed Romano, though that doesn’t match the evidence, Winters testified.
After the hearing, family and friends of Hoskins and Romano said they were sickened by the alleged crimes and said the murders were unnecessary.
Hoskins’ sister Tina Payne said those accused need to “face the punishment” for their crimes. If convicted, they face 18 years to life in prison.
She applauded the efforts of the Middletown police department. Winters said detectives and police officers worked more than 30 straight hours investigating the murders last week.
“Disgust, sickening,” is how Hoskins’ niece Heather Belcher described seeing the three defendants in court.
“They disgust me, they really do,” said Teresa Vick, who said she was one of Romano’s close friends. “These three people took two peoples’ lives and that didn’t have to happen. Tiffany didn’t have to die. Joe didn’t have to die. None of this should have happened.”