The four YBI founders were a good mix. They complimented each other well. While Peoples and Davis were more hustler types, master movers and shakers, Jones and Marshall were straight thugs, heartless street soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. In his autobiography, which he self-published in 1996, Butch Jones admitted carrying out his first of many murders when he was only 15 years old.
It’s alleged that seed money for the gang’s first large-scale narcotics purchase from an $80,000 insurance settlement that Mark Marshall received when his father was killed. Collecting the money was no easy task, since Marshall himself was conspicuously charged with the heinous crime – the mass murder of three people and a dog where the corpses were all ejaculated upon. Although he wound up going on trial twice for the triple homicide, Block was never convicted and subsequently was able to recover the insurance payout.
*Despite being the last man on the scene, Butch Jones quickly ascended to the top of the gang’s leadership and immediately imposed his will on the direction the syndicate took. He was a natural bully and not a person who liked to share power.
“Butch Jones was a pretty menacing guy,” De Fauw recollects. “He bullied his way to the top of the gang and once he was there he ruled with overwhelming force. Him and his crew were just coldhearted, ruthless people. I know one of his favorite enforcement tactics was to beat his enemies with a baseball bat. He did a lot of damage and hurt a lot of people.”
Intent on building YBI in the mold of a Fortune 500 corporation, Jones cultivated an infrastructure that was highly-organized from top to bottom. Trying to diversify the gang’s activities as much as possible, he split the operation into several distinct street factions, each responsible for a different aspect of the syndicate’s overall bottom line.
At the top of the food chain were Butch and Block, who ran their own individual army called “The Wrecking Crew” and oversaw the day-to-day affairs of the entire organization. Baby Ray and Wonderful Wayne, who went by the alias “WW”, were each given responsibility over individual crews and operated with general autonomy, differing to Jones only for basic policy decisions and mediation of intra-gang disputes. Beneath the founders, were an enforcement crew, known as “The A Team” and led by teenage hitman Curtis “Kurt McGurk” Napier and a finance and supply crew led by Sylvester “Seal” Murray. Within Wonderful Wayne’s faction were separate sub-factions that were jointly overseen by Davis and Jones that dealt specifically with the cutting and marketing of the drugs. These master mixers cooked up deliciously-potent brands of heroin and slapped on their packaging slick and catchy names like “Atomic Dog”, “Purple Haze”, “Hocus Pocus,” “Murder One”, “P-Funk”, “Starlight,” “Firecracker”, “Dynamo”, “Raw Dog”, “TNT”, “Whippersnapper”, “Rolls Royce,” “Hoochie Con,” and Jones’ own personal concoction dubbed “Check Mate,” in honor of his love of the game of chess.
Butch was never one to abide by the status quo, so he also made sure YBI was the first gang of its era to not have to rely on the mafia for its drugs. Said to have been enamored with the city’s original Black Godfather, Henry Marzette, the area’s first dealer to oppose the mob’s control of the marketplace, Jones patterned his legacy after him. So it was only natural when he got out of jail and hooked up with Baby Ray, Block and WW – who were all being supplied by Italian-backed sources – , that he steered them away from relying on the mafia for their product and encouraged complete independence. Jones and the fledgling Young Boys found that independence when they secured former Marzette lieutenant, John “Milwaukee Jack” Mayes, as their first primary heroin supplier. Mayes would soon introduce Jones to his protégé Seal Murray, who would go on to become Butch’s top advisor and main conduit to the wholesale drug community outside of Michigan.
Even deeper down the ranks, however possibly making up the most integral cogs in the entire organization were the teams of street dealers, all little boys and girls between the ages of 8-12, that sold the product out of their elementary school playgrounds and delivered it on 10-speed bicycles and in taxi cabs paid for by their superiors. These juveniles were the same ones who did most of the gang’s marketing footwork, plastering the city’s various housing projects with handwritten notices and coupons of sales and new product development.
When the gang reached its peak of power in 1981, it controlled a staggering 90% of the drug trafficking taking place within the city limits. The epidemic of young children dealing on behalf of YBI became so ingrained in neighborhood culture in the late-1970s and early-1980s, that little girls jumping rope would sing out rhythmic cadences like “Starlight, Hoochie-con, Rolls Royce round and round,”, among other rhymes that referenced the narcotics their peers were selling at the time.
“They were history makers alright,” said De Fauw. “By the end of YBI’s run, they had reshaped the way the drug game was played on both sides of the law. We had to adjust our methods as law enforcement, up our game if you will, to get an accurate beat on these guys. They were the first gang to start really exploiting pre-adolescent kids to their advantage and using them as shields. It made things a much more delicate process on our end in terms of investigating them.”
The majority of YBI traveled in bulk. When members of the gang showed up at a night club or concert, they were 50 people deep. Often dressing in unison, they only sported the most trendy clothes and styles of the era. One day they would all be rocking red Adidas tracksuits and white Adidas Top 10 running shoes, the next brown and green military fatigues and steel-toed boots. During the winters the gang favored fur-lined Max Julian hooded jackets and in the winters they were known to frequently wear “John Dillinger Derby’s”, old school Styrofoam political campaign hats adorned with red, white and blue stripes around the brim.
Modes of transportation were of the utmost importance as well. And like with their clothes, members of YBI were notorious for purchasing in lockstep. Two dozen or more Mercedes and Corvettes were bought at the same time and then promptly shown off during impromptu 100-person caravans to places like Cedar Point or Kings Island amusement parks in Ohio or sporting events and music concerts in out-of-state locations within a day’s driving distance.
Dissatisfied with living in the city where they grew up and plied their trade to great riches, Butch and Baby Ray high-tailed it to the plushy suburbs as soon as they could. Both bought palatial estates in ritzy Oakland County, with Butch moving to Oak Park to a house he built with an indoor pool and Baby Ray moving further north to Troy where he purchased a three-story residence in a leafy and secluded newly-developed subdivision.
“I knew the second I laid eyes on these guys we were dealing with a different breed,” said Taylor, who spent a portion of the era working in the private security business. “It was an eerie feeling that came over me because I immediately realized how much destruction a group like this could do. These cats were young, but so sophisticated and organized. They had an aura unlike any group like them I had encountered before. The neighborhood kids all gravitated to them. There was a prestige on the streets when you were affiliated with the Young Boys. It was like saying you played with the L.A. Lakers or New York Yankees.”
The good times lasted a half-decade, from roughly 1977-1982. And then the common perils of the industry started to set in and they self-destructed. The core of YBI, which consisted of about 50 people, was torn apart at the seams by greed, jealousy and resentment. Like a circling shark that smelled blood in the water, the government came in and delivered the deathblow, levying back-to-back-to-back federal indictments that spelled complete decimation for the gang by 1987. It was an ugly dismantling process.
The first cracks in the armor appeared in late-1980 when Baby Ray Peoples and Block Marshall had a falling out over a woman they were both seeing at the same time. Marshall might have had the reputation as a killer and Peoples that of a suave, laidback smooth-talker, but make no mistake about it, Baby Ray could more than hold his own in a fight. When he was 19 years old, Peoples was charged, but eventually acquitted of a racially-motivated murder of a man who was dragged from his car on Livernois Avenue and beaten to death with a piece of broken-off concrete. Things boiled over between Peoples and Marshall in early-1981. In the last of several heated verbal altercations the pair had engaged in that spring, Baby Ray shot Block, who survived the attempt on his life, but picked up and left Detroit for California as a result.
Around this same time, Wonderful Wayne began to chafe under the thumb of Butch’s heavy-handed leadership methods. Jones was power drunk and didn’t like to share credit or profits. Davis felt stifled and split town. First he went to Seattle and set up a small distribution operation in Washington State. Then he trekked cross country to Massachusetts and in a matter of months had completely seized control of a majority of the heroin market in Boston.
Returning triumphant to the Motor City in early-1982, Davis started an offshoot gang of his own called the “H20 Crew” and although he was still officially considered YBI, he refused to kiss Butch’s ring. It started when Wonderful Wayne’s crew took over much of the drug dealing in Pontiac, a traditionally independent town in Northern Oakland County, a good 45 minutes out of the city, and didn’t offer any tribute or commission to Butch or Baby Ray. He did the same thing a few months later when he branched off further up I-75 to working-class Flint and began selling powder cocaine, a product that had just become cheap enough to sell in the inner-cities.
This perceived lack of respect didn’t sit well with Jones and the rest of the YBI administration. Tensions came to a head between Davis and Jones over a territory squabble involving selling space on Lawton Avenue in Northwest Detroit. In Butch’s mind, all of Lawton belonged to YBI. When W.W. H20 lieutenants, many of whom were recent Boston transplants, started pushing a new mix of heroin called “Freak of the Week” in the area throughout the first part of 1982, Jones was personally offended. Things escalated when Kurt McGurk reported back to Butch that Davis was talking subversively and reportedly had said “Fuck that guy,” in reference to Jones personally.
On Mother’s Day, Baby Ray Peoples took a shot at an associate of WW’s while he was leaving a Hallmark store after purchasing a card to take to his mom on the way to dinner at her house. The summer came and went and Davis was still tolling around the city in his triple black Mercedes, outwardly disinvowing any and everything YBI. While standing outside a residence on Philadelphia Street on the city’s Westside in early-August, Peoples was shot as he assaulted a woman he had been dating named Cherrisse Jones. Some informants told authorities that the shooting was related to the infighting going on between Davis and his former cohorts in YBI, since the woman in question was said to have also been seeing a member of Davis’ H20 crew (Cherrisse Jones was found shot in the head, her body dumped by some railroad tracks near the city’s New Center area).
WW’s brash and careless behavior finally caught up with him on September 28, 1982 when he was shot in the head in broad daylight by two assailants, one of which he was having a conversation with, on the corner of Columbus and Lawton. Butch, Kurt McGurk and another pair of YBI lieutenants named Keith “Kethon the Terrible” Green and Maurice “Mo Heart” Gibbs were charged with the crime six years later in 1988, however, each soon had the charges against them dropped.
Date Posted: Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 , Total Page Views: 6491
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