Virginia Herbert pointed to the newly seeded lawn and bright marigolds in front of her neighbor's duplex to explain why she found it hard to accept that her next-door neighbor was one of three teenagers accused of throwing rocks at cars on the Capital Beltway last week.

John Lavin "J.J." Burgess, who had worked weeks helping his mother fix up the yard, just isn't the sort who would be involved in such an episode, which left seven people injured, Herbert said.

Burgess, of 102 Talbert Dr. in Forest Heights, "was a peaceable neighbor," said Herbert, 44. "He did such a good job that I asked him to come over to my house and help me."

Herbert said she learned of the 18-year-old's arrest Saturday as she watched television.

"I could hear his mother crying all night about it," Herbert said. "If he threw rocks, he probably didn't figure it would hurt anyone."

The three teenagers live in tidy neighborhoods tucked just inside the Beltway where it crosses over Livingston Road, the area where three youths threw rocks at passing cars about 2:30 a.m. on May 27.

The incident left Destiny Morris, 15, of Hagerstown, Md., in critical condition and prompted state and Prince George's police to launch a massive search for the throwers.

In addition to Burgess, police arrested 18-year-old Maurice Edward Ford, 1412 Colony Rd., and a 17-year-old whose name was not released because of his age. Police identified the teenagers after questioning a group of four youths Thursday, police sources said.

The two 18-year-olds have been charged with destruction of property, a misdemeanor, and with assault with intent to murder, a felony. The 17-year-old had not been charged as of yesterday.

Burgess and Ford graduated from Oxon Hill High School on Friday, according to police. The 17-year-old also attended Oxon Hill until he ran into trouble with his studies, his father said. The father said yesterday that his son was home last weekend during a Memorial Day break from the Woodstock Job Corps Center in Baltimore County. About 500 youths attend the state-run center to get job training and earn a high school equivalency diploma. "He was having trouble in school, so I suggested he enter the job corps," the father said. "He was taking culinary classes and living on campus."

The boy's father said his son had been in trouble with the authorities before, "but only for little kids' pranks, like trying to steal hubcaps."

A man who answered the door at Ford's home declined to comment yesterday, except to say, "The whole family is devastated by this."

A neighbor, Leroy Ferguson, 38, said he had befriended Ford, whom he called "Man," and been "sort of his big brother."

"He was from Philadelphia and loved to watch the 76ers with me," said Ferguson, a warehouse worker for Giant Food. "He's come over when he needed a ride somewhere or to help me work on my car or work in the yard."

"It surprised me when I heard he had been arrested. You expect to read about or hear about other people doing things like this," Ferguson said. "He was really interested in getting his {high school} education and he didn't seem mixed up with alcohol or drugs."

Burgess's arrest surprised Anthony Gilroy, 18, who grew up with the teenager. "J.J. wasn't a troublemaker," Gilroy said.

Staff writer Debbie M. Price contributed to this report.