This article was last modified on December 30, 2018.

The Equals Club: Milwaukee’s Black Mafia or Key to Political Power?

The Equals Club was an organization in Milwaukee (and elsewhere) during the 1970s. Ostensibly, its purpose was to organize inner city folks who felt they had been marginalized — the group worked hard to register more voters. The Milwaukee chapter, lead by ex-con Orlando Corday McMurry, more commonly called O.C. McMurry or “Mack the Knife”, came under the suspicion of the FBI because of their political activities, as well as their affiliation with drug dealers and street gangs (notably the Black P Stone Rangers).

Another organization, known as the “Black Family” was a loosely-knit group of black pimps, bank robbers and drug pushers who saw themselves as the next generation of Mafia (replacing the Italians). Using the Equals Club as a hangout, it made the group very much overlapped with those who wanted to legitimately improve the lives of those in the Inner City. This caused a great deal of confusion for authorities, who tended to lump everyone together (negatively).


McMurry moved with his parents Ernest McMurry and Rosetta Molton to Milwaukee from Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1946, when he was 11 years old. He graduated from Lincoln High School in 1953 at the top of his class. Despite this achievement, he was arrested dozens of times and served sentences at the State Reformatory in Green Bay and the state prison in Waupun (for two counts of forgery). His rap sheet was long, beginning in 1957 for abandonment, and including a variety of offenses from gambling (several counts), to disorderly conduct, to obstructing an officer, to taking another man’s driving exam. McMurry was also married the same year he graduated, but separated within three years and leaving his children behind. His parents had also split up and his mother re-married to Thomas Roaf.

In May 1968, two men were convicted of running a policy wheel at Wright’s Food Market. Several hundred policy slips were in their possession. Both men pleased guilty and were fined $200.

The Equals Club was formed in July 1969 through the work of McMurry and Vietnam veteran Andrew Reed. The first meeting was at the Top Hat Lounge (2933 West North Avenue), and 160 members were signed up on the first night. The organization offered counseling and job opportunities for parolees and drug abusers, though its bylaws explicitly stated no current addicts could be admitted. Reflecting later, McMurry explained to the press the need for a black political organization. he said, “I have formed certain conclusions that there is no justice in Milwaukee for the black man for he is arrested by a white policeman, warrants are issued by a white district attorney, you are tried by a white judge and sent to institutions that have only white supervisors.”

Though the Equals Club was created ostensibly to provide the black community with ways out of crime, McMurry did not seem to practice what he he preached. Between July 1969 and February 1971, he was picked up for gambling three times and was once found inside a brothel. Within the next year, he was caught gambling twice more and for possessing stolen goods in Rockford, Illinois.

June 29, 1971: 25 angry members of the black community, including members of the Equals, surrounded Officer Robert Dahlke at the McGovern park pool after allegations that he twisted the arm of 10-year old Donna Bost, who had been fighting with a white girl. Dahlke denied twisting the girl’s arm. Bost’s mother told the press, “He did let her loose, but then we were surrounded by police.” LeRoy Allen said the police had forced his son up against a wall at the pool and complained, “Why in the hell would they arrest a 10 year old girl? How can you have faith in a police department like that?” Bost admitted to reporters that she fought with the girl, but only after she was told, “You’re not supposed to be in this park, you little black nigger.” O.C. McMurry told the press, “The police are telling blacks to stay out of the park. If it had been your daughter, you would have been here, too.”

Later that same evening, a fight broke out at the Community Action Program (CAP) meeting, held at 2235 North 3rd. Around 40 members of the Equals were there protesting, and had physically restrained Organization of Organizations (OOO) executive director Lawrence Harwell from speaking. CAP president Boby G. Rouse asked two of them to be removed. This further aggravated protestors, and police were called. Sgt. Louis Enos was attacked by a piece of aluminum siding and had his head cut in multiple places. The protestors were tearing off the siding and smashing windows. One protestor stole a .38 revolver from an officer on the scene. One man was arrested for battery.

The purpose of CAP was to elect eight residents from poverty-stricken areas to sit as commissioners on the Social Development Commission (SDC).

June 30, 1971: Members of the Black P Stone Nation marched in Milwaukee around the 5th District police station at 4th and Locust to protest police brutality, and then returned to their “base” at Hephatha Lutheran Church. The media was unsure if these members were local or came in from Chicago. Chief Harold Breier claimed the 100 or so protesters had no “formal organization” and no connection to the Chicago gang. A spokesman for the group, who identified himself as “Chief”, said the protestors did not “want any trouble with the police. We just want to stop the brutal beatings of our brothers and sisters.”

On July 1, 1971, McMurry was elected the chairman of the Community Action Program (CAP) Residents Council. The previous chairman, Boby Rouse, resigned via a June 21 memo, and McMurry was picked as his successor. As part of the Equals, McMurry said his top concern was monitoring antipoverty organizations to ensure that their fund-raising actually reached the poor. At this same meeting, McMurry announced that the Equals had formed an alliance with the Black P Stone Nation and Concerned Veterans for Peace to help combat police brutality.

Members of the Equals vowed to confront Rev. Kenneth Bowen at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church concerning the issue of brutality. Bowen was serving as the “community relations specialist” for the Police and Fire Commission. Jeanetta Robinson said, “Since he won’t come to the people, we’ll take the people to him. People have a right to worship, but just our presence will show him that we are serious and concerned about the alarmingly increased rate of police brutality.”

The FBI opened an Anti-Racketeering file on the Equals Club on January 5, 1973. An informant alleged that the club was financing narcotics, prostitution, burglaries, bank robberies and other crimes. Certain members were alleged to fence loose diamonds, silverware, color televisions and other goods. The club was alleged to have an attorney on retainer to help get criminals out of jail, and there was always speculation of Mafia connections. Two policy wheels, called “cat” and “rabbit” were alleged to operate on the north side.

On January 17, and informant alleged that the Equals Club offered “protection” to north side taverns. They would charge each tavern $10 for the first month and $5 each additional month. Just as with the mob, failure to pay protection money meant an Equals member might rob the tavern at any time. The informant also said an Equals member had murdered a sailor a few months prior accidentally, when a robbery attempt went wrong. Lastly, he advised that most Milwaukee pimps leased their cars from Jack White Ford, but didn’t know why.

On January 23, an informant said a member of the Equals borrowed $10,000 from a loan shark working for the Balistrieri family (specifically Joe). Within one week, he sold enough drugs to pay back $5,000. Informant used the word “dope”, not specifying the kind of drugs.

In early April 1973, Sharon Risiner celebrated her birthday at the Equal Club with Andrew Reed, “Slim”, Felix Daniels and O.C. McMurry. Risiner was well-known at the time as one of the first black Playboy bunnies (she worked at he club in Lake Geneva).

The FBI received a full membership list (with home addresses and phone numbers) of the Equals on April 3, 1973 from an inside source.

On April 14, 1973, an informant explained how “policy” worked in Milwaukee. A $5 bet would earn $125 if three numbers matched. $5 would earn $10 on two numbers matched. The numbers were pulled from a big barrel somewhere in the vicinity of North and Palmer on the east side.

On April 16, an informant claimed that the Equals Club had a narcotics deal with Joe Balistrieri, who was dating a black woman with a blonde wig. This same source claimed that she saw a local judge pick up a black woman from the club for dates.

The FBI opened up a file on Marcellus Williams on May 4, 1973 after receiving a report that Williams allowed gambling at his tavern, the Campfire Inn (2879 North 21st Street). He had owned the tavern since 1964 and never had a problem renewing his license. Williams did have a minor record of gambling offenses and disorderly conduct, but was relatively law-abiding. Interesting, Williams had moved to Milwaukee from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the same city as OC McMurry.

The FBI sent an informant into the Equals Club on June 11, 1973. The bouncer said that only members could enter and the men would have to come back for possible initiation on June 21.

On June 25, an informant spoke to the FBI and said he had recently been in the Equals Club. He saw a man arrive with an attache case, dressed like a pimp. At one point, the pimp was talking to other men and opened the case to reveal it was full of cash.

The FBI opened a “White Slavery” file on O.C. McMurry on June 29, 1973. They suspected that given his background connection to prostitution, he might be involved in interstate offenses. They were especially interested in one case where he was believed to have transported a prostitute across state lines in 1967, but the woman involved denied it and no further investigation was pursued. Although the FBI’s case agent described the Equals as “an organization of ex-convicts and thieves who are exploiting the racial discrimination on the North Side for their own profit”, no evidence was found for McMurry’s involvement in actively transporting women, and his case file was closed on October 29.

In early July 1973, one of the Equals members was beaten and robbed of $1,600. The robbers had been known to hang out at Smitty’s on Fond du Lac Avenue and target men with big bankrolls.

On August 15, 1973, the FBI spoke with the narcotics unit of the state Department of Justice. The state agents believed that the Equals Club members were bringing in 7 kilos of heroin every two weeks, and this operation was being financed by the local Mafia. They also thought that the Mafia was probably helping with connections, because the Equals members would not be “smart enough” to set up the importation of heroin. The agents also said the word around town was that after the last raid at the Equals Club, the vice squad was threatened… the Club claimed they would incite a race riot like never before if another raid happened, and the police chief ordered the end of all raids.

Two FBI agents stopped by the Campfire Inn on August 17, 1973 to speak with Marcellus Williams. He said he had no knowledge of “large amounts of horse betting”, but had no doubt that gambling was going on in his tavern on a small scale. Williams said he had no knowledge of this gambling first-hand, but “surmised” it was probably the case.

Patrolman Michael Carlson of the Milwaukee Police Department testified that at approximately 4:15 A.M. on the morning of October 20, 1973, he responded to a dispatcher’s request for investigation of a shooting at 2939 North 24th Street. Officer Carlson was admitted to the residence through the front door by Patrolman Frederick Tice, a member of the ambulance squad, who was already on the scene. Carlson stated that, upon entrance, he observed Julius James Nash lying on the floor between the kitchen and the living room with a gunshot wound to his left leg. Carlson inquired as to what had occurred and was informed by Nash that he had shot himself while cleaning his gun and that the gun could be located in the bedroom. Officer Carlson then proceeded to the bedroom where he observed the gun in question lying on the floor adjacent to the bed and observed as well an open manila envelope which contained a “crushed greenish brown weed” that Carlson suspected to be marijuana. Having recovered both the weapon and the envelope, Carlson returned to the living room.

From his position in the living room, as he had also upon his entrance to the residence, Officer Carlson observed several marijuana roaches in the ash trays. He further observed other manila envelopes of the same type discovered in the bedroom as well as an open canister containing a “crushed greenish brown weed” on top of the bar. Moreover, on the wall behind the bar Carlson observed a rack on which were hung three rifles. Officer Carlson proceeded to the bar for the purpose of collecting the suspected marijuana. In so doing he stepped behind the bar, whereupon he observed one revolver lying on the floor and two additional revolvers lying on a shelf behind the bar. Officer Carlson testified that his purpose in proceeding behind the bar was to recover the suspected marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia that was on top of the bar but that it would not have been necessary for him to go behind the bar to recover such items. He further stated that he could not have observed the three revolvers from a position in front of the bar.

Subsequent to his confiscation of the suspected marijuana and defendant’s conveyance from the residence, Officer Carlson, together with his partner Patrolman Mark Koch, removed all discovered weapons from the premises. Officer Carlson stated that the latter action was prompted by the inability of himself and his partner to lock the front door and secure the premises as well as their judgment that the weapons should be removed for safekeeping. Carlson further testified that he acted in conformity with police department rules and regulations which required him to secure the premises in the best fashion available and to insure the safety of any valuables. In addition, as Carlson was aware at the time and as counsel stipulated during the course of the hearing, defendant’s residence was situated in an area subject to a high rate of crime. Carlson then gave to defendant’s mother, who did not intend to remain at the residence but who intended to post two guard dogs, a list of the items taken.

On October 28, 1973, an informant said he often visited the Equals Club and saw various kinds of gambling: craps, whist, tonk, blackjack and 4-5-6.

In late October or early November 1973, “many Italians” came into the Equals Club following the funeral of Leroy Wright. Some of these men were known to be involved in dope deals with Equals members.

On November 8, 1973, an informant told the FBI that there was a new form of heroin coming into Milwaukee known as “red mud”. When heated, it turned black and was “dynamite”. The source for this heroin, as well as cocaine, was in Sheboygan. This source also said a black pimp was going around bragging that he was going to kill two white girls.

On November 23, 1973, an informant said that heroin was sold “across the bar” at the Equals Club, and the club had a room for heroin addicts to shoot up in with a couch for them to lie down on.

On January 26, 1974, an informant said that representatives from Milwaukee were in Atlanta to set up another chapter of the Equals Club. (Many Milwaukee members were from Atlanta and had family there.)

On January 31, 1974, the FBI opened a file on Eddie Stokes Sr (2456 West Brown Street). They found him associating with known pimps and suspected that he, too, was a pimp. A minimal investigation took place and they soon discovered he was a machinist for Resins and Chemey, with only traffic offenses on his record.

An informant told the FBI on March 4, 1974, that a local pimp was planning to bring several prostitutes to Montana to work near an Army base.

The Equals Club was raided on April 12, 1974. 23 people were picked up on drug and traffic warrants. $700 in heroin was seized. A shotgun, handguns, knives and other drugs were also confiscated. Stephanie Gail Benton was charged with carrying a concealed weapon (a knife). Price Ivory Sykes was arrested for having Valium and secobarbital on his person. Police tried to arrest O.C. McMurry for drug possession, but the drugs were “scattered” throughout the club in such a way that no person could be tied to a specific drug.

Robert Silverstein, attorney for the Equals, aid they were considered “legal action” because of the raid. He felt the police were using “harassment” tactics and unfairly targeting the black community. The police had allegedly busted in with a sledgehammer and destroyed chairs, speakers, a jukebox, bar stools and more. Frank James Brown said, “They tried to pound their way in here with a sledgehammer before we asked them if they had a search warrant. Then we just opened the door and let them in. They came in here with riot guns and shotguns and tore up the place.”

On May 11, 1974, a man came into the Equals Club with four black prostitutes. Despite repeatedly complaining about being broke, he was gambling extensively at the club. When referring to a pimp who had recently been busted, the man said the pimp “just didn’t kill enough of those bitches”.

The body of Thomas West (better known as “Tom Slick”) was discovered at about 12:30 p.m., on February 20, 1975, on the floor of his apartment at 1921-B North 24th Place in Milwaukee by an off-duty police officer who owned the building and had stopped to collect his rent. West had been shot three times with a shotgun at close range.

Jerry Lee Robinson told police that on the night of the murder he was looking out the window of his apartment when he saw four men get out of a car and walk up to the porch of the building. One of the men returned to the car and removed a rifle or shotgun. Robinson stated that this man then went back to the porch and handed the gun to ??? Marshall. The four men then entered the door of the building and disappeared from Robinson’s view. A short time later, Robinson stated, he heard three shots coming from the downstairs apartment followed by a rumbling noise. He then watched as all four men exited the building, got back into the car and drove away. Robinson’s claims would later be called into question when he failed a polygraph exam.

Roosevelt Cummings occupied the cottage directly to the rear of the building in which West’s and Robinson’s apartments were located. On the night of the murder he had been watching television when he was interrupted by a knock at his front door. He answered the door and was asked by a person whom he had not seen before if a Tom Slick lived there. Realizing that this person was looking for Thomas West, Cummings directed him to the forward building and told him he would find the man he was looking for there.

As the person was leaving, Cummings observed a car, which had been parked on the street during the conversation, turn into the alleyway adjacent to the two buildings. The car stopped next to West’s apartment. Cummings, who had remained at the door, watched as the person he had spoken with walked towards the car where he was asked by an occupant on the passenger side what he had learned. He responded that West lived in the rear apartment of the front building and continued walking until he reached the rear door to that building. Cummings then observed two men get out of the car and join the other person on the porch outside of the apartment building. He watched until he saw these men knock on the door of the building and, at that point, he closed his own door and resumed watching television.

Shortly thereafter, Cummings heard loud voices and arguing coming from West’s apartment. After about five to six minutes he heard a car start and back out of the alley. He then heard more loud noises and suddenly, three quick noises that sounded like muzzled gunshots. He immediately jumped up from his couch and turned off his light, but did not call the police because, as he later testified, he feared for his own safety. When Cummings was eventually shown photos by police, he did not pick out Marshall but rather one David Darnell Hardy.

On April 2, 1975, a confidential source spoke with the FBI about the Folks Body Shop on Teutonia and how it was allegedly operating as a chop shop (taking in stolen vehicles). The investigation was quickly dropped when the Bureau decided there was no way to proceed without compromising their source.

On August 18, 1975, as Cummings was sitting in the rear of the courtroom, he saw Marshall sitting a few rows in front of him and immediately recognized him as the man he had seen that night. He reported this to a police officer, and several days later a line-up was held at which Cummings again identified Marshall as the man who had come to his door the night of the murder. As a result of his identification of Marshall and Robinson’s refusal to testify, Cummings became the State’s key witness at Marshall’s trial. On the basis of his testimony the jury found Marshall guilty as charged. A judgment of conviction was entered on April 21, 1976, and Marshall was sentenced to life imprisonment in the State Reformatory at Green Bay.

“Black Family” member Eugene Terrell and Ronald Cobbs were acquaintances, but on the evening of November 8, 1975, they argued about a small amount of money which Terrell borrowed from Cobbs’ wife. The altercation commenced at Jeannie’s Place and continued at an apartment used as an “after-hours” tavern. Cobbs and Terrell went to a front room of the apartment, where they were alone. According to Terrell’s statements, Cobbs said he did not like what was going on between his wife and Terrell. Cobbs hit Terrell and knocked him down, and then came at him with his arms extended. Terrell, who was then on the floor, pulled a .25 caliber pistol from his pocket and shot at a distance of two feet. Terrell said he did not know how many cartridges were in the weapon or how many shots he fired. He said that his mind “was like a total blank.” Cobbs was shot in widely separate parts of his body, a fact which could reasonably demonstrate that Terrell did not aim at vital portions of Cobbs’ body with the specific intent to kill. The evidence of the police officer who investigated at the scene also indicates that some shots struck the wall and did not hit Cobbs. Cobbs died a short time later. Terrell fled Milwaukee and was arrested in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

On December 11 or 12, 1975, Felix Winters and two other men robbed Isaac “Little Ike” Haskins at his apartment. After the robbery, Haskins attempted to locate Winters. He and nine other men, including Robert Neely, went to the house of Winters’ girlfriend, Kathleen Lessard. Lessard arrived sometime later, a gun was put to her head, and she was directed into the dining room. Haskins told her that her boyfriend, Winters, had just robbed him, and he wanted to know where he was. He told her she had better help find Winters or she would never see Winters again. Neely injected heroin into both of Lessard’s arms, stating that it was pure and that she would probably die from it, but that it would probably make her talk and reveal the whereabouts of Winters. One of Haskins’ and Neely’s companions held a gun to Lessard’s son’s head, and her house was ransacked. Lessard agreed to take the men to the home of Helen Wright where she had just seen Winters distributing the proceeds of the robbery.

Wright was the girlfriend of one of Winters’ accomplices. Accompanied by Lessard and another man, Neely forced his way into Wright’s home. Wright testified Neely put a pistol to her face and demanded to know the whereabouts of her boyfriend. Wright informed him that Winters was in Chicago. After retrieving from Wright some of the money Winters had taken from Haskins, Neely made a phone call. Isaac Haskins arrived and told Wright he had been robbed and wanted his money back. Wright was then told to let Haskins know if her boyfriend contacted her. Several days later Winters phoned Haskins to apologize and to offer restitution.

Several days after the robbery, Haskins confronted Neely with Winters’ statement that Neely had set up Haskins for the robbery. Neely said it was a “damn lie.” Haskins asked Neely if there was “anything that he was going to do about it.” Neely responded that he was going to kill Winters. Haskins then told Neely the plan for killing Winters, which was subsequently followed.

Neely and the three other men (Nash, Holder, Garner) started out with Winters for Indiana for the ostensible purpose of finding the other two robbers. As an excuse for getting off the freeway at Highway 158, they told Winters they were going to Kenosha to get some guns. About half a mile east of the interstate, the men faked a flat tire. The driver pulled over and everyone got out of the car. At that point Neely was supposed to shoot Winters, but Winters realized what was about to happen, ran across the road, and disappeared down an embankment with Neely in pursuit, firing at him. When the first shot was fired, Winters stumbled but kept running. Neely went down the embankment and followed Winters across a field. Another man joined in the chase. Eventually, Winters turned and ran back toward Neely. Another shot was fired and Winters fell. Neely then returned to the car, and the four men drove back to Milwaukee, telling Haskins, upon arrival, that the job had been completed. Nash received some heroin and $45 for his part in the incident.

Winters’ body was found on December 27, 1975. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a bullet wound to the left side of the body.

Officers went to Nash’s home based upon an unnamed informant’s tip that Nash “knew about the Felix Winters murder.” The officers conceded that, upon their arrival, they did not have probable cause to arrest Nash. After informing Nash that they were police officers and wanted to talk to him, Nash suggested they get into the squad car. Nash was with a male companion at the time and indicated he did not want to talk to the police in front of his companion. Before he got into the car, one of the officers patted him down and read him his Miranda rights. He was never handcuffed. Once inside the car, Nash asked the officers to drive around the block so he would not be seen talking to them. After he completed his statement (and on the basis of that statement), the officers arrested Nash and took him to the police administration building.

On January 19, 1976, the Milwaukee Journal reported that “a Black Mafia” was in Milwaukee, and although it was only one year old, it could soon overpower the Italian Mafia. Writer Richard Kenyon claimed the Black Mafia modeled itself and its structure on the Italian Mafia and hoped to use narcotics much the same as Italians had used bootlegging. An anonymous state official told Kenyon, “We’re certain that Italian mafiosi have financially backed some of the large narcotics transactions made recently by blacks.”

The Milwaukee office of the FBI opened a file on the so-called “Black Family” on February 3, 1976. An informant who had been providing reliable information since December 1973 said there was a “loosely knit” collection of gangs referring to themselves as the Black Family. While the gangs were involved in a variety of crimes from bank robbery to prostitution, the common factor is that they all dealt in narcotics. The source claimed that after the incarceration of (redacted), a number of men tried to take control and ultimately they solidified into the Black Family. One man (redacted) was now the kingpin of local heroin and cocaine dealing. The source claimed that both Freddie Jones and Felix Winters had been killed by the Black Family; interestingly, Jones had been found dead in an alley of a suspected overdose. Looking through mug shots, the source identified 13 Black Family members.

On February 17, 1976, a source said that black men were coming from East St. Louis and Gary, Indiana in order to join up with the Black Family.

A 3-day party was held in Milwaukee for narcotics dealers and pimps from March 5-7, 1976. One pimp was there from Champaign, Illinois and was trying to recruit Milwaukee girls for a brothel he was opening in Champaign.

On March 26, 1976, a source told the FBI that the “Black Family” was more or less synonymous with the Equals Club. They said the name Black Family was being used by (redacted), one of the men arrested for killing Felix Winters. A distinction could be made that the Black Family committed crimes and the Equals were a social club, but the overlap was huge. The source said the current going rate for 25 grams of cocaine was $1,050.

On August 24, 1976, Nash withdrew his not guilty plea to a charge of first degree murder and entered a plea of guilty to the charge pursuant to a plea agreement with the state. His plea was accepted and he was sentenced on the same day to a life term. (Because he testified against his friends, the prosecutor recommended that the governor reduce his sentence to 25 years, but the governor denied this request.)

Neely was then charged with first degree murder and a five day jury trial was held commencing on October 11, 1976. At Neely’s trial for the murder of Winters, Neely testified on direct examination that he was a drug dealer who bought drugs from Haskins, but who worked primarily on his own. He related his activities on the day of Winters’ death, describing how he went to Haskins’ apartment to buy drugs. Neely testified that he had no knowledge of any plan to kill Winters, and he portrayed Haskins as having no anger toward Winters. According to Neely’s testimony, Haskins asked Neely to accompany Winters and the other men to Gary to retrieve the possessions that Winters had stolen from Haskins, and Neely grudgingly agreed. Neely testified that Haskins wanted Neely to guard the safety of both Haskins’ possessions and Felix Winters. Neely depicted the shooting of Winters as taking place while he (Neely) was an unsuspecting passenger in the car, and he flatly denied any involvement in the shooting.

During cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Neely about the Lessard-Wright incidents. Neely refused to answer on the grounds that his answer might incriminate him. Although the court ordered him to respond, Neely persisted in his refusal, asserting his fifth amendment privilege seven times in the presence of the jury. Neely was convicted of first-degree murder, and the conviction was affirmed by both the Wisconsin Appellate Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Elwood Garner was sentenced to seven years’ probation in early January 1977 for his role in the Winters murder. Garner received the surprisingly light sentence for second-degree murder because he had consistently testified against his co-defendants. As a condition of his probation, Garner was required to enter a rehab facility.

Haskins was charged with first-degree murder, and a jury trial was held commencing January 10, 1977. Prior to trial, Haskins filed a motion in limine requesting an order “prohibiting the prosecution from introducing any testimony or evidence upon the trial of this cause concerning any alleged crimes other than the crime charged and for which the defendant is on trial.” Defense counsel made clear that the motion was directed to the incidents which occurred at the Wright and Lessard residences on the night of the robbery of Haskins and sought to have evidence of those incidents declared inadmissible as improper “other crimes” evidence and as having prejudicial effect which outweighed its probative value. The trial court denied the motion, deferring consideration of the issue until the evidence was actually proffered. At trial, the evidence was admitted.

In June 1977, Billy Clifton was caught on tape telling a victim that he would have the Equals pay her $250 if she dropped her assault charges against Alexander Garth. O.C. McMurry went to the press and denied that Clifton was an Equals member and said the organization was a non-profit group that helped rehabilitate drug users and get them registered to vote.

Although off their radar for two decades, O.C. McMurry came back to the FBI’s attention on October 12, 1995, when he was caught up in their “controlled buy” program. An undercover officer approached McMurry at 1:33pm and said to him, “What’s up, Mac? Let me get four.” The officer was directed to go in a house, but the officer said he wouldn’t because they “trip” in there. McMurry then went inside and had a second man come out, who traded four small plastic bags of crack for $40. A test back at the lab came back positive, determining the samples to be .48 grams of crack cocaine.

On the afternoon of November 29, McMurry was brought into a room at the police department to speak with a vice detective and an FBI special agent. McMurry was very forthcoming with them, giving an overview of his history, and his current medical issue. He saw a doctor on occasion for arthritis and high blood pressure, and was taking a prescription medication for a depressed nerve on his face. McMurry freely admitted that he occasionally smoked “weed” and “rock” and lived in an attic of a crack house, where he had been since January 1995. His downstairs neighbor sold crack cocaine and was a heroin addict. McMurry did not specifically recall the day he helped an undercover officer buy crack, but said that such a transaction would be normal and common — he pointed customers to his housemate all the time. For his role in the transaction, McMurry was charged with delivery and placed on a year of probation.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

One Response to “The Equals Club: Milwaukee’s Black Mafia or Key to Political Power?”

  1. Steve Cideg Says:

    Hi Gavin! I just discovered your website and it’s stupendous! You would love an old true crime book called ‘Winter of Frozen Dreams’ by Karl Harter. It’s all about the most sensational murder case in Dane County history the late-1970s homicides that were committed by prostitute and straight A student Barbara Hoffman. It involves organized crime in Madison, etc. (A movie was made based off the book but it’s terrible, stay away from the movie!) The book is stunning and really gets at the seamy underbelly of Dane Co. in the mid/late 1970s.

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