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Suspects in Md. slaughter of 4 called Texas drug couriers

By Matt Zapotosky and Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 8, 2010; C01

Two drug couriers from Texas have been charged with first-degree murder in Friday's shooting of two women and two young children in a squalid Prince George's County apartment, police said, and law enforcement sources added that the killings stemmed from a drug debt the women failed to pay.

Prince George's Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said Saturday that Darrell Lynn Bellard, 43, shot the four victims execution-style, firing multiple bullets into each one, and that T'keisha Nicole Gilmer, 18, blocked their escape. Bellard, of Dickinson, and Gilmer, of Texas City, were both being held.

"We believe that this was a drug relationship that went very bad," Hylton said. "Just the coldness of this execution, it's very troubling."

Killed were Dawn Yvette Brooks, 38; Mwasiti Sikyala, 41; Shayla Shante Sikyala, 3; and Shakur Sylvester Sikyala, 4. Brooks was the mother of the children, and Mwasiti Sikyala was their paternal aunt, authorities said. All lived in the 6800 block of Third Street in the Lanham area, where their bodies were discovered about 3 a.m. Friday in a garage apartment amid piles of trash and debris.

Police said they still do not know why the family was living in such horrid conditions -- in a dilapidated apartment above a garage with no toilet, running water or air conditioning. Police said they have removed tons of trash from the property and found containers of human feces. Hylton said investigators want to know why they would live like that when it appeared they were profiting from the drug trade.

In addition, the family appears to have roots in Prince George's. Online county records indicate that the Sikyala family has owned the Third Street property since 1993.

A woman who said she was a relative said the family was not transient and did not live in filth. "We are a proud family," the woman said. "We are from a foreign country, and we respect ourselves." She declined to give her name.

The woman said that the family had immigrated to the United States from Congo and that one of the slain women had an 18-year-old daughter who would soon be starting college.

"We are really hurt, and we want justice to be done," the woman said. Other family members declined to comment or could not be located.

Hylton said Bellard and Gilmer were known to travel from Texas to Prince George's County, where they met up with their local connections.

"Obviously, they had a relationship involving a drug sale," Hylton said. "At some point, there was some type of dispute."

Brooks and Sikyala had no criminal records in Maryland, according to online court records, although they have been sued for various debts. As of Saturday, Hylton said, authorities had removed 10 tons of compacted trash from the garage and an adjacent house.

Stacks of rubble were still visible inside and outside the apartment Saturday, but there was a finished hardwood floor and a TV with a VCR. Neighbors said that in recent months, people often moved in and out of the house and that children could sometimes be seen playing in the yard.

Online county records indicate that Mukala Sikyala and Silwano Sikyala had been listed as the property owners since 1993. Records indicate that Mukala Sikyala died in 2008. Hylton said it appeared the property owners were not connected to the killings. The victims, he said, were leasing the property.

Law enforcement sources said the dispute was straightforward: Brooks and Sikyala owed Bellard money for drugs, and they could not pay him. Two sources said Bellard shot the children because he was afraid that they could testify, despite their age. Sources also said the dispute does not appear to extend beyond the suspects and victims. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and they were not authorized to speak publicly.

"I think these are probably relatively unsophisticated people," one source said. "I think they probably just figured they had to kill everybody."

Waylon Bellard, Bellard's brother and a D.C. area resident, said what happened was "devastating for both sides of my family." He said his family is related to the victims through marriage, and he was struggling to come to grips with the charges against his brother.

"That's not his character," Waylon Bellard said. "For him to do something dumb and stupid like that, like the selling drugs, I figured he would go out on a whim and do something stupid like that. But to do something as horrendous as [the killings], that's not him."

Waylon Bellard said his brother lived in Texas and received disability payments. He said some years ago, his brother "got himself shot, and he was totally changed."

"The people he started surrounding himself with were not the kind of people that were positive people, and that's what the problem is," Waylon Bellard said. "I tried not to believe it at first. I tried very hard not to believe it. I tried to find every possible scenario to make him not be the one. And I just don't know."

Bellard also said the way police portrayed the victims was not totally accurate. They were renovating the property, he said, and had "been cleaning up there for months."

Hylton credited the quick arrests to patrol officers' rapid response and homicide detectives' follow-up. He said patrol officers identified and detained individuals of interest "on or close to the crime scene." Bellard and Gilmer, he said, "admitted their involvement in the execution."

One law enforcement source said Bellard was among those detained near the crime scene. Another source said Gilmer was detained elsewhere.

Staff researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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