Brutal Attempt to Silence a Witness Backfired

Police first took note of Kaboni Savage in the 1990s when he was a small-time drug dealer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

From there, he began buying larger quantities of cocaine and putting together a network of crime. Savage quickly built a reputation for violence. To further his illicit business, he often turned to murder, assault, kidnapping, and threats. His anger was directed toward anyone who crossed him, including customers, rival gang members, members of his own organization, and even law enforcement.

Despite his ruthless methods, Savage was unable to stop the work of the Philadelphia Safe Streets Task Force, made up of local, state, and federal agencies. In May 2004, Savage and others were indicted for cocaine distribution, money laundering, weapons offenses, and later on, witness intimidation. The accused were arrested and held for trial.

He agreed to cooperate

One of those arrested was Eugene Coleman, a member of Savage’s gang. He agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. That’s when Savage launched an operation to silence Coleman. The gang leader passed instructions to his sister Kidada Savage during jailhouse visits. He also communicated by telephone with gang members Lamont Lewis and Robert Merritt.

In October 2004, Lewis and Merritt opened fire on the residence of several members of Eugene Coleman’s family. They then threw two gasoline cans with a lit cloth fuse into the Philadelphia row house.

When the flames were finally extinguished, six dead bodies were found. Among them were Coleman’s 54-year-old mother, his 15-month-old son, and four other relatives, including a 10-year-old girl and 12- and 15-year-old boys. Coleman himself was incarcerated at the time.

Informants and surveillance

Through informants and electronic surveillance, investigators pieced together the components of the heinous crime.

Eventually, they proved that Savage was responsible for those six murders and at least six others, and that he ran a violent drug trafficking enterprise.

Savage and four others went to trial in November 2004 on the initial drug charges. Fourteen others had pleaded guilty before trial and were convicted and sentenced.

Then Kaboni Savage, his sister and several associates were indicted and convicted for the arson deaths of Coleman’s family. Savage received a death sentence and his criminal organization was finished.

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