Joseph E. Ferrell III said he turned to cocaine after his wife died.

Their home at 421 Morton St. eventually turned into a crack house, where Detroit men would sit at a table and sell drugs, and people would come in and out of the house all day, almost every day.

Before Ferrell’s wife died, he never used crack, he said. They were married 11 years and she succumbed to a massive heart attack three years ago.

Ferrell, 54, who has since been nicknamed “Skip” by the drug crowd, took the witness stand yesterday in the trial of Bennie M. “Money” Tabb of Detroit.

Tabb is the first to stand trial of 28 alleged cocaine dealers from Detroit arrested in February on multiple charges related to alleged crack dealing.

Ferrell testified that he took in a woman off the streets who was a user, and that is how he became hooked on the illegal drug.

At first he would go to a known drug house at 922 Carson St. called “the Clubhouse” to buy his crack cocaine, and it took him 10 to 15 purchases through another person before the owner would allow him inside, he said.

The Clubhouse was run by Gerald J. “Geronimo,” Crosby, who is one of the 28 charged.

Several alleged Detroit dealers, whom Ferrell identified as James “O.Z.” Moses, Anthony “Panama” Neal, Frenzado “Kill” Snow, Tabb and Marcos “Loco” Ferriera, eventually approached him about selling crack from his house, he testified.

He said Money pulled a gun and threatened him once when he refused.

But as Ferrell’s addiction grew, he relented and allowed the men to sell in exchange for more crack. He said crack would be sold there three or four days a week, and Tabb would primarily sell while sitting sit at a table.

Ferrell said when all of the rocks from a plate were sold, the Detroit dealers would go across the street to a duplex where they lived, “re-up” their supply from Panama, Jasper “Izzo” Neal and Kill, and return to Ferrell’s to sell more.

They sold amounts according to the money customers had.

“It could be a rock, a teener, an eight-ball (3.5 grams), they were all different prices,” he said, adding an eight-ball was cut into 20 rocks.

He said Tabb would sell an eight-ball, cut up, for $300, and that he bought crack from Tabb and would use it and sell it.

Ferrell testified that Panama, Izzo and Kill were getting their crack from Detroit. O.Z. would order it and someone would go get it, he said.

On an average day, 15 to 20 people would be in his house or staying there, he said.

The sellers always had guns in his house while they were selling, he said, and some users would be sent outside to watch for police. Others would stand at the door. Ferrell said the crack business that grew at his house was how he supported himself.

New Castle police, with help from New Castle’s code enforcement, raided Ferrell’s house in June and he was arrested. The house was boarded up and the drug trade moved across the street to a green duplex, where some of the Detroit boys lived, Ferrell said.

He told the jury he has not used cocaine since he was arrested.

Tabb’s attorney, Nick A. Frisk Jr., asked Ferrell if he would change his story if he could prove Tabb was not in New Castle before Jan. 13, 2005.

Ferrell responded that although his memory about time and dates is foggy from cocaine use, he would not change his story.

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