By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 9, 2008
A young man convicted of brutally killing two elderly women in a Suitland flower shop in a robbery that netted $60 was sentenced yesterday to two terms of life in prison without parole plus 40 years.
Judge Michele D. Hotten of Prince George's County Circuit Court imposed the sentence on Adam I. Neal, 25, of Suitland, who was found guilty May 19 of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon in the stabbing of Mary Frances McDonald, 76, and Madeline "Mattie" Thompson, 73.
The women were killed the morning of Sept. 24, 2003, in McDonald's floral shop in the 4600 block of Suitland Road. McDonald was stabbed and cut 29 times, and Thompson suffered 19 stab wounds and slashes, prosecutors said.
Moments before she announced her sentence, Hotten reminded Neal that his victims were beloved by their relatives and by neighbors of the shop.
Hotten said she could not imagine how Thompson and McDonald felt during the final moments of their lives. "I can imagine that those last moments were unpleasant, and that's an understatement," Hotten said.
Neal told the judge that he was innocent. "I don't know how to ask for forgiveness for something I didn't do," Neal said. "I feel embarrassed. I feel like I've disgraced my family name."
Neal turned to face relatives and friends of the victims in the courtroom and said: "I didn't do this. God willing, I'll find a way to prove my innocence."
Neal did not testify during his trial, and Assistant Public Defender Robert E. McGowan called no witnesses.
The slayings remained unsolved until February 2006, when investigators tied Neal to them through a DNA link. At the time, he was incarcerated in Northern Virginia on unrelated charges.
According to evidence presented by prosecutors at the trial, Neal's DNA was on a T-shirt and a pair of black knit gloves found in a dumpster in the parking lot of an apartment complex about a mile from the flower shop. McDonald's Ford Escape, which had been used as a getaway car, was parked next to the dumpster, prosecutors said. At the time, Neal lived in the apartment complex, prosecutors said.
Blood from the victims was found in the SUV, prosecutors said.
During yesterday's hearing, Ann Swann, McDonald's daughter, said her mother had a third-grade education but made sure her daughter went to college. After the killings, Swann said, she heard from many people who said McDonald had helped them, giving them flowers when they had no money.
"She was slaughtered. She was taken down," Swann said. "I had no opportunity to say goodbye to her."