Md. Man Gets Federal Death Sentence in Slaying

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A Hillcrest Heights man was sentenced to death by a federal judge in Greenbelt yesterday for abducting and murdering the son of a D.C. police lieutenant more than four years ago.

Kenneth J. Lighty, 23, will be the second man on death row in the federal system in Maryland.

During the brief hearing in U.S. District Court, Lighty maintained his innocence before Judge Peter J. Messitte announced the sentence.

Lighty declined to apologize for the murder of Eric L. Hayes II, 19, saying: "I just want to make it clear I'm innocent of these charges."

Lighty, who did not testify during his trial, said he will appeal his conviction.

Messitte noted as he announced the sentence that Lighty had experienced a difficult childhood with little or no parental supervision or guidance.

The judge previously sentenced the only other federal death row prisoner in Maryland, a Laurel man convicted of ordering the murders of three young District women in Beltsville in 1996.

Lighty's sentence was a formality because the federal jury that convicted him voted in November that he should be put to death. Under federal rules, judges are bound by a jury's finding in death penalty cases.

Messitte also ordered Lighty to pay $7,578 in restitution to Hayes's family, at a rate of $25 a month.

"The jury's recommendation that Lighty pay the ultimate penalty for his vicious murder of Eric Hayes reflects the judgment of a community that has simply had enough of senseless gun violence," said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

Relatives of Hayes and of Lighty declined to comment.

Lighty is the third man sentenced in the Jan. 3, 2002, kidnapping and murder of Hayes. James E. Flood III, 28, of the District was convicted of kidnapping and murder, and Lorenzo A. Wilson, 22, of Hillcrest Heights was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap.

Flood and Wilson were sentenced in January to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

Federal prosecutors told jurors that Hayes was a PCP dealer. Neither Hayes's illegal activity nor the fact that he was the son of a police officer was related to his abduction and murder, the prosecutors said.

According to evidence presented by prosecutors, Hayes and a friend were hanging out in the 3200 block of Eighth Street SE, near Alabama Avenue, when they saw a dark blue Lincoln Continental stop in a parking lot.

During Wilson's trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah A. Johnston said that Hayes sold PCP-laced cigarettes for $20 each, and he told his friend he could use the $40 or $50 just before he went to the parking lot to meet the people in the car. Hayes had some PCP hidden in a car in the parking lot, Johnston said.

The friend then saw Hayes being held down over a car, and the friend ran away from a gun-wielding assailant, Johnston said.

Hayes was driven into Prince George's County and about 45 minutes later was shot three times in Oxon Hill, prosecutors said.

Someone had stolen a car belonging to a friend of the killers, who abducted Hayes thinking he was the thief, prosecutors said. In reality, Hayes had nothing to do with the theft of the car, they said.

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