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Pair charged with killing 2 women, 2 children in Prince George's are denied bond

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 10, 2010; B01

The two alleged drug couriers from Texas charged in the fatal shootings Friday of two women and two children in a squalid Prince George's County apartment were ordered held without bond Monday, and prosecutors were exploring whether they can seek the death penalty, authorities said.

Appearing on closed-circuit television, Darrell Lynn Bellard, 43, of Dickinson, and T'keisha Nicole Gilmer, 18, of Texas City, said nothing, except to answer Prince George's District Court Judge Thomas Love's standard questions during a five-minute hearing. Prosecutors were not given any chance to speak about the evidence or say why the pair should be held before Love ruled that they would continue to be held without bond.

At a news conference after the hearing, Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said that police still were gathering evidence and that prosecutors would weigh that evidence before deciding whether they could seek the death penalty.

(Photos: The investigation and hunt for evidence)

Ivey said recent laws require that he have either DNA linking suspects to crimes, videotaped confessions or a videotape of crimes in commission. Prosecutors were reviewing whether they had such evidence in this case. Ivey said he could not comment on what evidence had been gathered because of ethics rules governing what he can say during an active case.

Bellard and Gilmer are accused of killing Dawn Yvette Brooks, 38; Mwasiti Sikyala, 41; Shayla Shante Sikyala, 3; and Shakur Sylvester Sikyala, 4. Brooks was the children's mother, 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 an apartment amid piles of trash and debris.

"It certainly does grab and pull at the heartstrings," Ivey said. "Certainly, this is a crime that's shocking to the community."

Police have said that Bellard shot the four victims execution-style, firing multiple bullets into each one, and that Gilmer blocked their escape. According to charging documents made public Monday, officers found one of the women lying on the floor near the entrance of a bedroom and the other three victims lying on the bed.

Police were called to the scene by a male witness who said he found a woman lying on the floor in a pool of blood, according to the charging documents. Bellard was taken into custody at or near the scene, and Gilmer was taken into custody elsewhere, apparently trying to flee to Texas, sources have said.

Ivey said investigators were probing why the family was living in such squalid conditions -- in a dilapidated apartment above a garage with no toilet, running water or air conditioning. Police have said they removed tons of trash from the property and found containers of human feces. Charging documents confirmed that both suspects admitted their involvement in the crime, which law enforcement sources have said stemmed from a dispute over a drug debt the women failed to pay.

Court records obtained by The Washington Post on Monday show that Brooks had a history of substance abuse problems. In 2003, the records show, her mother petitioned the court for custody of two of her children who were not slain, saying that her daughter was "homeless" and a "continued substance abuser."

"Defendant is a homeless addict, and has been moving from place to place," the mother, Catherine Brooks Sheldon, wrote in a 2003 filing. She could not be reached for comment Monday.

Family members of Brooks and Sikyala continued to decline requests for comment Monday. Relatives of Bellard and Gilmer could not be reached, though Bellard's brother said Saturday that he had not been able to talk to Bellard about what happened. The brother, Waylon Bellard, said his family was related to the victims by marriage and was still struggling to cope with what had happened.

Bellard and Gilmer said in court Monday they would seek the advice of a lawyer. Love, the judge, referred them to a public defender for their next scheduled hearing next month.

Staff writers Ruben Castaneda, Dan Morse and Rick Rojas contributed to this report.

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