D.C. man pleads guilty to slaying girlfriend, her 2 sons

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Northeast Washington man pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 2009 fatal stabbing of his girlfriend and her two young sons in the apartment they shared during an abusive relationship.

In D.C. Superior Court, Joseph R. Mays, 46, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder in the March 21, 2009, slayings of his girlfriend, Erica Peters, 38, and her two sons, Dakota Peters, 10, and Eric Harper, 11, in the 2000 block of Maryland Avenue NE. The couple's then-3-year-old daughter, Ashleigh, was unharmed.

The D.C. police response was scrutinized after a 911 call surfaced in which Eric was calling for help during the attack.

Members of Peters's family became irate when they discovered that a police officer waited outside the door for 30 minutes before trying to break in. According to testimony earlier in the case, the officer heard the faint sound of a child crying out, "No, stop," but waited for authorization from a supervisor. The door was barricaded from inside with a metal rod, and officers waited for a fire department crew to enter the home.

Relatives wondered whether any of the victims might have survived if the officer had tried to break into the apartment earlier. The three victims died of stab wounds to the head and body.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, Mays faces a maximum of 120 years is prison, but he is likely to be sentenced to 30 to 46 years.

Mays is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 12 by Judge Gerald I. Fisher.

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