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When prosecutors indicted Kevin Gray and Rodney L. Moore earlier this year on charges of running one of the city's most violent heroin- and crack-dealing operations, they noted that Moore had paid Edmond a prison visit in to arrange a drug deal. When Antoine Jones, 16, opened fire on a group of teenagers at the National Zoo last May, the old kingpin was in the background again. Jones, newspapers soon reported, was the son of James Antonio Jones, one of Edmond's enforcers.

But then, Edmond was granted only a simple moniker, one that bundled him in with every other two-bit hustler: "notorious drug dealer. Just a few years ago, it seemed impossible to imagine that Edmond could pass from public consciousness. He was to D. During his trial on drug conspiracy charges, prosecutors dubbed him "the Babe Ruth of crack. The Washington Post called him a "drug tycoon" and said his organization was the "biggest" and "deadliest" in the city. Back when Edmond was the subject, every other word was a superlative.

Even his name had an epic ring to it, which suited the multigenerational production of which he was the undisputed star. Before their son got famous, the Edmond family was like many in Washington. His grandmother, Bernice Perry, owned a town house at M St. NE, on a tree-lined block just south of Gallaudet University. Little Rayful played his first game of basketball nearby, at the J. His jump shots later drew crowds to the No. Indeed, Edmond might have landed a college scholarship of his own, but he wasn't interested in higher education.

He had already found a vocation.

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As a teenager, Edmond started in the business by collecting drug money for his father, who had worked in a government office and sold drugs on the side. But then, according to a tape recording the FBI made of Edmond's mom during its investigation of Edmond, he "got too big" and "just up and went out on his own.

By the time Edmond was arrested, at age 24, he controlled between 30 percent and 60 percent of the city's market for crack and cocaine. Edmond's operation had so many customers that buyers would cause traffic jams around "the Strip," the open-air drug market that Edmond operated on Orleans and Morton Places NE, right around the corner from his grandmother's home. Edmond may have perfected the role of chief municipal outlaw, but he didn't invent it.

A long line of bootleggers, numbers-runners, and pre-crack dope dealers came before him. But Edmond's notoriety, unlike Yellow Jim's, extended well beyond D. When Edmond rayfulled his way into police custody, prosecutors managed to make his legend grow still bigger. William H. Murphy Jr. Richey's decision to try Edmond before D.

Over the past decade, the Washington Post has run more than stories about Edmond.

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But if Edmond was a ruthless drug lord linked to 30 murders, he wasn't a stingy one. Instead, Edmond fell into another category: a case of great potential gone wrong. What's unusual about his case is that people at his level in Los Angeles or Chicago were usually not very publicly visible, but Washington is much smaller," notes William Chambliss, a sociology professor and criminology expert at George Washington University, who used Edmond as a case study in his classes up through the early '90s. He liked to be known, and he paid a price for it.

Chambliss doubts whether the hero worship was ever as widespread as the Post made it out to be. People think he ran an airtight operation, but he didn't. It was a loose-knit, poorly run organization that our department was able to infiltrate. To us, Ray's a criminal. All he did was hurt people. When Edmond's empire went down, his family went up the river with him.

Constance Perry's tape-recorded words helped send her son away. With phrases such as "You should meet my new girlfriend. She's 6 feet tall," Edmond would hawk 6 kilos of cocaine over prison phones as clueless guards stood by. He later explained his prison drug dealing, saying, "At the time, my mind-set was, I had to still have people look up to me and prove that I was still capable of making things happen.

By , though, law enforcement officials had caught on. Edmond agreed to become a government witness to win early release for his mother, who was serving a year sentence. In , after Edmond's testimony helped convict 11 people, Perry walked out a free woman. And Edmond was put in witness protection.

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He's in the slammer for life, but no one will say which slammer. Edmond's street credentials, though, tanked.

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