A Prince George's County teen-ager accused of killing 16-year-old high school newspaper editor Randy Moskowitz because he wanted to use Moskowitz's car pleaded guilty yesterday to a first-degree murder charge.
Paul David Luckey, 19, a neighbor of the slain youth, was scheduled to go to trial yesterday, but instead decided to offer his plea. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop their request for the death penalty in the case, assistant state's attorney Bond Rhue testified.
Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Audrey Melbourne will decide on Luckey's sentence next month. The state's attorney's office has asked that he be given life in prison.
Homicide detective Earl Jones testified yesterday that Moskowitz gave Luckey a ride in his mother's car on Sept. 19, 1980 , after Luckey "flagged" him down. "Then Luckey produced a handgun and ordered him to drive to a field," the detective said. "He ordered him out of the car, told him to run and began to shoot him."
Moskowitz was shot six times, three in the back and three in the head, Jones testified. His body was found the next day in a wooded area near Prince George's Plaza Shopping Center on East West Highway.
Moskowitz' car was missing but his wallet, which was in his pants pocket, had not been touched. Jones testified that the motive for the shooting was a desire by Luckey to use the car.
Jones said police traced the killing to Luckey after a "certain individual" told police that Luckey had told him he had shot and killed Moskowitz. Jones testified that he monitored a phone call between the informant and Luckey in which Luckey said "Please do not bust out on me, please do not tell on me."
Moskowitz was managing editor of the student newspaper at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, where he was in the 11th grade. He had a part-time job as a computer programmer at the University of Maryland and wanted to become a computer analyst, like his father.
Moskowitz' parents and Luckey's mother, uncle and two sisters were in the courtroom during yesterday's proceeding before Judge Melbourne. After the hearing, Nathan Moskowitz said he was glad Luckey decided to plead guilty because a trial "would have been a hardship emotionally" for him and his wife.
"My son had great potential," Moskowitz said. "He wanted to go to college, he was a very good student and very sociable. This tragedy is absolutely devastating. It's one of those things you live with and never get over it."