The Detroit Drug Wars (Part 1)

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The first remnants of the gang emerged around 1976 when aspiring kingpins Raymond “Baby Ray” Peoples, Dwayne “Wonderful Wayne” Davis and Mark “Block” Marshall brought their individual crews together and started selling heroin out of a bar on the corner of Prairie and Puritan. When Milton “Butch” Jones, a close friend of both Block and Baby Ray, was released from prison in February 1978 after serving a four- year sentence for manslaughter, and joined up with the fast-growing operation, YBI was officially off and running.*

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.

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