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Hip-Hop News: Charges Refused In Soulja Slim's Murder
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
3/22/2004 8:46:23 PM

Tags and topics realted to this article include C-Murder and Master P.

When police arrested a man in the ambush slaying of local rap star Soulja Slim, it didn't solve the mystery of his violent death, it deepened it. Detectives said suspect Garelle Smith was a hit man who was paid $10,000 and the killing "had something to do with the record industry and a rival record label."

Shrouded in a fog of questions about who may have ordered the execution, the case seemed to be inching through the slow pipeline of the court system until last month, when Slim's family was blindsided by two developments: First, the charge against Smith, 22, was refused by prosecutors because "the evidence was insufficient to prove the crime," district attorney's spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said.

The second blow was the more staggering. Detectives posthumously implicated Slim -- known in police files by his birth name, James Tapp -- in a murder that took place in September, that of Robert Lee Paige Jr., 30, who was shot and tossed into a City Park lagoon, his body weighted down with cinder blocks. Third District Capt. James Scott said the department is investigating Tapp as a possible suspect in other shootings as well.

Detectives believe the Paige killing involved drugs, and no evidence has surfaced to link it to Tapp's killing two months later.

"We had a known credible witness who came in and gave us circumstances of the murder which substantiated information that, through our investigation, only we had," Scott said. "There would be no other reason for a person to come in and name Soulja Slim as a perpetrator after the fact. There would be nothing for that person to gain. . .

"Live hard, die hard, I guess," he said.

Tapp's family and friends don't believe it. Nothing about Paige's murder fits the Soulja Slim profile, they said. Not the method. Not the motive. And certainly not the timing, just as Tapp was on the verge of national stardom and was about to promote a new album.

"That's just their way of closing their books," said Tapp's manager, Anthony "Antman" Murray. "Nothin' on the street was serious enough for him to bother with like that. Nothing that crucial . . . He wasn't on that type of time. He was on artist-type time."

While the classification of Tapp as a killer infuriated friends and family members, the refusal of the charge against Smith has been confounding. Police said they have been re-investigating the case in an attempt to strengthen their evidence, but progress appears to be at a standstill. Meanwhile, Smith remains behind bars, booked in another murder. Smith and Steven Kennedy, 22, each face second-degree murder charges in the Dec. 11 shooting of Spencer Smith Jr., who was sitting in a pickup truck on St. Bernard Avenue when he was shot several times. Spencer Smith, no relation to Garelle, was a recording artist in his own right, performing under the nickname "Funk."

The unexpected turn of events has only stoked the rumors that have engulfed the local rap community regarding Tapp's killing. Was the killing an act of jealousy on the part of another rap artist? Some guy he had a beef with at a nightclub? An old score that never got settled?

Some people have speculated that Tapp's falling-out with No Limit Records, which he left in 2002 amid financial disagreements, could have played a role. Tapp made no bones about feeling that he got a raw deal from the label, owned by local rap mogul Master P, and that he was not inclined to settle his differences through arbitration in court. "I got some paperwork where I could try to go to war, but I ain't no nigga to go to court . . . You heard me? I get it in blood, nigga," he told a magazine interviewer.

Others in the rap community said the speculation is ludicrous, pointing to Tapp's tight relationship with Master P's younger brother, C-Murder.

Whatever the truth, the arrest of Garelle Smith provided hope that answers would be forthcoming. Detectives s

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