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Gang Initiation Trial Set To Start Next Week

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY — One of the biggest trials of the year in Cumberland County is set to get started next week. It involves three abductions and two murders committed back in August of 1998. Investigators say it was all part of a gang initiation.

Eric Devon Queen and Francisco Tirado are both charged with abducting and murdering two Cumberland County women as part of an initiation into the Crips gang.

Bullets used to shoot each woman in the head were painted with blue nail polish.

A third victim, Debra Cheeseborough, was abducted the same night. She was shot several times and left for dead. She crawled for help and survived. Investigators say all three women were random victims.

Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler says the crime puts the spotlight on the gang problem in Cumberland County. Two of his investigators traveled to an abandoned apartment in the county frequented by Crips to prove their point.

"This is basically a smoke house," said Detective David Dowless of the Gang Unit. "It's probably a gang hangout where they meet and converse with each other."

Dowless says more than 100 people in Cumberland County are gang members.

"In Cumberland County, we probably have around 40 some different sets," Dowless says.

The city and county banded together to help the sheriff's office get a grant that will be used to help educate middle schoolers on gang dangers.

"This program will show them and alert them how to resist, how to avoid peer pressure on this issue," said Lt. Joe Ortiz. "How to be able to get out of it without disrespecting who's talking to them that might come from a gang."

For those people who say gangs are not a problem, Ortiz has some words for them.

"A lot of people think it's a wanna be. It's a wanna be and it's just kids playing around," Ortiz said. "They don't have a concept of the seriousness. They're not going to be wanna bes, they're going to be gonna bes."

Jury selection for the two alleged killers begins on Monday.

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John McDonnell, Reporter
David Renner, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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