Former Best Friends gang lieutenant Stacey (The Machine) Culbert was released from federal prison this week following 24 years of incarceration on two homicide charges. The Best Friends was Detroit’s most murderous drug crew of the late 1980s and early 1990s, responsible for approximately 100 gangland slayings in less than a decade of existence.

The 48-year old Culbert was one of the Best Friends top enforcers. Suspected in taking part in over a dozen gangland slayings, he pled guilty to the murders of Motor City drug world figures Mike (M&M) Mitchell and Frank (Mad Max) Maxwell on the eve of his trial in 1995. Mitchell was gunned down in a drive-by on a Detroit expressway minutes after leaving a court hearing.

Busted along with virtually the entire Best Friends organization in 1992, Culbert was a fugitive from justice for two years before being apprehended hiding out in Pittsburgh. A number of Culbert’s co-defendants rolled the dice with a jury and got convicted and slapped with life sentences. As an inmate, Culbert penned a novel called Gutta Boys, loosely based on his experience in the Best Friends.

Founded in 1985 on the far eastside of Detroit by the Brown brothers, the Best Friends started out as a murder-for-hire squad employed by area crime lords. Within a couple of years, the gang had become major players itself in the burgeoning local drug game, pushing powder in the city, out in the suburbs and eventually expanding into Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Authorities suspect Culbert of being involved in the murder of Best Friends boss Terrance (Boogaloo) Brown while on the run from the law with him. He was charged in Brown’s death in his original indictment. Brown was found dead in an Atlanta hotel parking lot in the spring of 1993 during the Freaknik Music Festival. It’s believed Culbert and a fellow Best Friends member thought Boogaloo was planning on killing them, so they acted first.

Reggie (Rocking Reg) Brown is the only one of the four Brown brothers still alive today. He’s doing life behind bars for being the triggerman in several murders at the height of the Best Friends’ bloody reign.

A notorious loose cannon, Rocking Reg once opened fire with an Uzi in a busy indoor shopping mall at Christmas time and killed a Best Friends lieutenant-turned-cooperator named Alfred (Chip) Austin, just minutes after bonding out of state custody on another homicide charge, by spraying a crowded house porch with an automatic weapon. Austin’s four cousins, one a three-year old girl, were felled as collateral damage in Austin’s murder. Culbert was named as a co-conspirator in the quadruple homicide, but never convicted.

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