Suspect in Prince George's County Homicide Case Ordered Held on Drug Charge

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Prince George's County slaying suspect who was released without bond this month was ordered held on a separate drug charge yesterday.

Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. ordered that Sean M. Sykes, 18, remain detained at the Cheltenham Youth Facility pending his April 7 trial date on a juvenile charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The Jan. 6 drug offense had been put on the court's inactive docket, and prosecutors said they would not take action if the Oxon Hill teenager completed a drug diversion program and stayed out of trouble.

But late last month, Sykes was charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 24 stabbing death of Rene R. Belasco. On March 5, District Judge Hassan A. El-Amin released Sykes to the custody of his mother without requiring the defendant to pay a bond ensuring that he would show up for court hearings. It is unusual for murder defendants in Prince George's to be released without having to pay bond or report to authorities while they are free.

In an interview, El-Amin defended his decision, saying he did not believe Sykes was a flight risk or a danger to the community, the two factors judges are required to weigh in determining the conditions of pretrial release.

But Prince George's prosecutors, who say Sykes is a member of the Bloods street gang, activated the earlier drug case and had Sykes picked up on that charge Thursday.

Prosecutors also filed a motion challenging El-Amin's decision, and a hearing will be held on that issue today before another judge in the District Court.

During yesterday's hearing in juvenile court, Nichols said, "We need to get back to our responsibility of giving this young man a fair trial while keeping him and the community safe."

Nichols said the Department of Juvenile Services, citing the murder charge, had recommended that Sykes be detained in the drug case. Nichols said he was not second-guessing El-Amin's decision to release Sykes.

According to police charging documents in the homicide case, Belasco was killed in the Oxon Hill apartment complex where Sykes lives with his family. Police said a witness saw Sykes and another man drag the wounded Belasco out of an apartment building and leave him on the sidewalk.

Charging documents allege that Sykes and the other assailant, Wysan R. Longstreet, threatened the witness about cooperating with police.

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