Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Darrell Lynn Bellard was 44 years old at the time of the slayings. He currently is 44.

Death penalty sought in Lanham killings

Two women and two children were found dead in filthy and deplorable living conditions above the garage of a home in the Lanham area early Friday morning.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2011; 8:17 PM

Prince George's State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said Friday that prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a Texas man accused of killing four people, including two young children, inside a squalid apartment in the Lanham area last August.

In a written response to The Washington Post, Alsobrooks confirmed her office will seek the execution of Darrell Lynn Bellard, 44.

"The killing of innocent, defenseless children is at its very core abhorrent," Alsobrooks said in the brief statement. "The murder of two women as well as those children makes this an even more heinous case. After careful review and much consideration, I have decided to file the necessary paperwork to seek the death penalty."

Bellard is accused in the Aug. 6 slayings of Mwasiti Sikyala, 41; Shayla Shante Sikyala, 3; Shakur Sylvester Sikyala, 4; and Dawn Yvette Brooks, 38. Brooks was the childrens' mother, and Mwasiti Sikyala was their paternal aunt, authorities said.

The victims were found shot to death in a garage apartment in the 6800 block of Third Street in the Lanham area. The apartment was strewn with piles of trash and debris, police said.

Bellard's co-defendant, T'Keisha Nicole Gilmer, who was 18 at the time of the killings, also has been charged. If convicted, she faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

According to law enforcement sources, Bellard, a suspected drug courier, shot and killed Mwasiti Sikyala and Brooks because they failed to make good on a drug debt. Authorities think he killed the children because they could be witnesses.

Gilmer, also of Texas, is believed to have blocked the victims from escaping, investigators have said.

Relatives of Mwasiti Sikyala have said she was not involved in the drug trade.

Maryland law requires prosecutors to have either DNA evidence, a videotaped confession, or videotape of the crime in order to seek the death penalty.

Both Bellard and Gilmer have admitted participating in the killings, investigators have said.

One of Bellard's defense attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Janet Hart, sharply criticized Alsobrooks's decision.

"This notice was filed on the last possible day, without any DNA evidence," Hart said. "It appears to be largely based on a statement made by the defendant that was extracted by a police department with a documented history of obtaining confessions that are later proven to be false."

Hart also noted that there is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland because the state legislature has not developed procedures for executions.

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