By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 9, 2005
Her name was going to be Kaya, and she would have turned 1 this month. Instead, Kaya died when her father, Darius T. Hicks, shot her pregnant mother to death in a Fairfax County park, a jury said yesterday.
The Fairfax jury convicted Hicks, 32, of first-degree murder in the slaying of Shawndre N. Fulton and the malicious killing of a fetus. After a defiant speech and an outburst by Hicks, the jury needed only 15 minutes to determine that he should get life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend and 40 years for the death of the fetus. Both terms were the maximum.
Hicks was the first person prosecuted in Fairfax under a new law passed by the General Assembly last year outlawing the killing of a fetus.
Fulton was 21 and had two children, now ages 4 and 2. She lived with her mother in the Sequoyah apartment complex just off Buckman Road in the Mount Vernon area. Her body was discovered at 1:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 25, 2004, by a teenager who had gone to the darkened pavilion at Mount Vernon Woods Park to drink beer.
Hicks, who testified that he worked as a clerk at a Blockbuster video store, was a constant presence in Fulton's life after meeting her in the Route 1 area in summer 2003. Hicks said he had five children by four women, but Fulton's family said he regularly visited their apartment or walked with Fulton in the neighborhood.
On the night before the shooting, a friend of Fulton's, Damon Venable, testified that he rode a bus with Fulton and Hicks. Venable said Hicks took out a bag of bullets from his coat, declared that he was going to kill Fulton and pointed out two bullets: "This one's for her, and this one's for me," Venable said Hicks announced, while Fulton listened but said nothing.
The following night, according to Fulton's mother, Hicks called twice and spoke to Fulton and Fulton hung up on him. Fulton then went to a meeting at the South County Government Center, while Hicks showed up at the apartment. Celia Alvarez, Fulton's mother, said she didn't open the door for Hicks, and he banged on it loudly after Alvarez told him Fulton was gone.
Hicks denied pulling out a bag of bullets on a bus or threatening to kill Fulton in front of Venable. He also said he did not bang on Fulton's door. He denied assaulting Fulton on two prior occasions, as other witnesses have reported.
No one witnessed the shooting, and one neighbor testified he heard one gun shot. An autopsy showed that Fulton was shot at least seven times, in the chest, jaw, stomach, side and back, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said.
After Fulton's death, Hicks called a couple of times, then wasn't heard from again. He did not attend Fulton's funeral. He was found two weeks later in Jacksonville, Fla.
Fairfax homicide detectives Steve Milefsky and John Wallace went there to interview him. For four hours, Hicks denied killing Fulton. Finally, Milefsky testified, Hicks said he shot her accidentally while Fulton was grabbing the gun. But Hicks then recanted the story and maintained that he did not shoot her.
Vanessa Antoun, Hicks's attorney, told the jury that Hicks's confession came from information the two detectives provided and that he repeatedly told them it was false. She said he only told the story to end their interrogation. Even if it was believable, Antoun said, it was about an accident, not murder.
The jury deliberated for about four hours before convicting Hicks.
They then heard from Fulton's family. Her mother said Fulton's death had been hard on her children. "They would cry and say, 'When is my mom coming home?' " Alvarez said. "I would tell them, 'Your mother is in heaven, and someday we'll all see her.' "
Hicks took the stand a second time. "It hurts that she's gone," Hicks said of Fulton. "What hurts even more is I've been found guilty of committing crimes I did not commit."
Morrogh asked Hicks why he did not attend his girlfriend's funeral. "I like to remember people the way I saw 'em, alive," Hicks answered.
"You last saw Shawndre looking up at you from the ground, when you put those gunshots into her, didn't you Mr. Hicks?" Morrogh responded.
Hicks answered angrily, "You know what Mr. Morrogh, you can go to hell."