Saturday, November 16, 1996
Buddy Gray shot dead; client held

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Buddy Gray
Buddy Gray speaks at a 1994
Cincinnati City Council
meeting. | ZOOM |
Stanley ''Buddy'' Gray, the advocate who kept issues of the homeless and indigent in the public eye for more than two decades, was shot to death Friday morning in his Over-the-Rhine office.

A gunman entered the Drop-Inn Center at 217 W. 12th St. at 9:10 a.m., pushed past a front desk, barged into a room where Mr. Gray was meeting with three co-workers and opened fire, police said.

Mr. Gray, 46, spilled from his chair to the floor as the others scattered, and the gunman stood over him and fired several more shots, emptying the six-shot .357-caliber Magnum revolver, police said.

A man Mr. Gray tried to help is accused of killing him. Wilbur Worthen, 56, who lived in a building at 1324 Race St. developed for low-income tenants through Mr. Gray's efforts, was charged with aggravated murder.

Wilbur Worthen
Wilbur Worthen
''I can't figure out why he did what he did,'' said Beulah Burns, a longtime shelter resident, who saw the shooting and made the 911 call after fleeing to the basement.

''Everyone knew he was sick, but he always seemed real pleasant to me,'' she said. ''Buddy always helped him whenever he'd need a loan for his apartment rent or whatever.''

Witnesses said Mr. Worthen emerged from Mr. Gray's office holding a smoking pistol and stood at the top of a staircase overlooking a room filled with homeless and
poor people taking shelter from the cold. Mr. Worthen, they said, announced, ''I shot Buddy, I shot that (expletive).''

''He was bragging and stuff,'' said who was sitting on a bench near the stairs and heard the fatal shots.

Then Mr. Worthen reportedly walked back to the room where Mr. Gray lay dying, put down the cloth-wrapped pistol and waited. Officer Keith Fangman, the first officer to reach the shelter, could still smell burnt powder from the gunfire when he arrived, police said.

''He asked for the victim by name, entered the office and shot him'' at least three times, striking him in the back and abdomen, said Lt. Greg Snider of the Cincinnati Police Division's homicide unit. A police report said Mr. Worthen told Officer Fangman he shot Mr. Gray, then pointed to the pistol.

Mr. Gray was pronounced dead at University Hospital at 9:58 a.m.

Word of the killing spread like flames through the social service community.

Stephanie Sweeney, executive director of Franciscan Home Development Inc., a non-profit housing agency in Over-the-Rhine, said Mr. Gray was known as an aggressive advocate for the homeless, but he was also helpful and hard-working behind the scenes. He often helped her group with parking, supplies or whatever they needed.

Friends, associates and those Mr. Gray had helped were stunned, many rushing to the shelter in tears as soon as they heard.

''He was the backbone of this place,'' said Antoinette Anderson, who was working in the kitchen at the time of the shooting. Even as workers shared hugs and comforted each other, a truckload of food arrived to restock the kitchen for the day's meals.

Witnesses told police Mr. Worthen was upset and accused Mr. Gray of pumping poison gas into his apartment. Police would not comment on a motive for the shooting, but charged that Mr. Worthen acted ''with prior calculation and design.''

Mr. Worthen has a history of minor brushes with the law - from gambling and public intoxication to misdemeanor assault and fighting - dating to the 1950s.

Pat Clifford, coordinator of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, said Mr. Worthen had mental and behavioral problems that were treated with medication, but he didn't always take his medicine. ''He was wild when he was off his meds, but nothing like this.''

Police are not sure where Mr. Worthen got the pistol, but a check of its serial number showed it was reported stolen in 1994 from the east side of Cincinnati.

Mr. Worthen is to be arraigned today in Hamilton County Municipal Court.

Published Nov. 16, 1996.