Danny Steele
Danny Steele

York City's most recent homicide victim was no stranger to drugs, guns or the gang lifestyle.

Whether that lifestyle is what ended up getting Danny "Gamble" Steele killed is not yet known, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said Monday.

Steele, 36, of the 100 block of South Richland Avenue, apparently was shot while driving a car, police said.

He was found dead inside that vehicle at the corner of North George and North streets about 2:55 a.m. Saturday and was pronounced dead at the scene, Chief Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley said.

An autopsy is set for 8 a.m. Tuesday at Allentown's Lehigh Valley Hospital, according to the coroner's office.

Kahley confirmed detectives also haven't determined whether Steele's slaying is connected to a North York club where he had been seen prior to the shooting.

Uncle's questions: Steele's uncle, Rameo Steele of New York City, said he wonders whether his nephew's death is related to a 16-year-old York City murder case that ended with Danny Steele testifying against two childhood friends in exchange for leniency on his own murder charge.

Rameo Steele said police told him his nephew's car was shot nine times.

"That's someone who had it out for him -- that's somebody who wanted him dead," Rameo Steele said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out."

Ambush murder: Steele and two other men charged with the Oct. 5, 1997, ambush murder of Raymond "Skip" Clarke grew up together in the Bronx, according to court testimony at the time. Steele's co-defendants were Tysheem "Ty Boogie" Crocker and Melvin "Fatback" Bethune.

Clarke was among a group of men playing dice on a porch along East Maple Street in York City, as was Kendall "Do-Work" Smith, a.k.a Kendu Hemphill, who also was raised in New York City and was a member of that city's "Gods" gang.

Police at the time said the Gods were in a drug turf war in York City with a Bronx gang called the "Cream Team," which also had come to York to sell drugs. Police said Steele, Crocker and Bethune all were members of the Cream Team.

Hail of bullets: The trio and four other Cream Team members approached the dice game, and all seven opened fire, according to testimony. Only Steele, Crocker and Bethune were ever charged in the slaying, although the fatal shots likely were fired by a man known only as "Corleone."

The Cream Team members fired at least 40 bullets at the dice players, according to testimony; 19-year-old Clarke was the only person struck. Police said Smith was the intended target.

Steele agreed to testify against his childhood friends at their trial. Crocker and Bethune were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Because of his cooperation with authorities, Steele's first-degree murder charge was dropped.

Lesser sentence: He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and was sentenced to 2-1/2 to five years in prison, court records state.

Prosecutors feared for the safety of Steele, who by that time was a known "snitch," they said.

At the time, Tom Kelley, then a senior prosecutor and now a York County judge, said Steele had received anonymous threatening letters from state prison -- where Crocker and Bethune were serving their time -- and had been "sucker-punched" in a courthouse holding cell for testifying against his friends.

Kelley saw to it that Steele served his time in York County Prison, where officials decided he would be safer.

Drug dealer: Steele was arrested for drug dealing in York County a number of times.

In 2010, he pleaded guilty to dealing drugs in two separate cases and was sentenced to the same amount of prison time he was given in the murder case.

In 2006, he pleaded guilty to three counts of drug-dealing, court records state.

In 1997 he pleaded guilty to dealing drugs, and also pleaded guilty in two separate cases for which he gave police a fake name, records state.

When he died, Steele was delinquent in paying fines and court costs for most of his cases, to the tune of more than $4,200, court records state.

'Sweet guy': But Rameo Steele didn't know "Gamble" the drug dealer. He knew "Danny," and described his nephew as a sweet guy.

"We love him and we miss him," the grieving uncle said. "Nobody deserves to get killed. I just hope the York Police Department catches who did it ... and I hope they get what's coming to them."

Danny Steele is survived by his parents and siblings, all in the New York City area, as well as three children in York, according to Rameo Steele.

"We didn't raise him to be the way police said he is," the uncle said. "He was a sweet child. His mother's a church-going woman."

Steele's children loved their father and are reeling from his loss, according to Rameo Steele, who asked that people pray for the children, and for the entire Steele family.

-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.