An article in yesterday's Metro section misidentified a defense attorney in the Beltway rock-throwing case. His name is Howard Wilson. (Published 7/18/90)

The 17-year-old suspect in the rock-throwing incident on the Capital Beltway in May that injured 21 people, including a teenager who remains in a coma, will be tried as an adult, a Prince George's County judge ruled yesterday.

Circuit Court Judge Robert J. Woods said Donnell Richard Petite, who will turn 18 on Sept. 16, should be tried as an adult because the juvenile penal system "would not help" him.

"All of us were shocked by the brutality of this senseless act. I've seen very few crimes that match this," Woods said. "I have no choice."

Woods said his decision was based upon the seriousness of the crime, the danger it presented to public safety and what he described as Petite's alcohol problem, which Woods said would not receive proper treatment at a juvenile detention center.

Defense attorney James Wilson, who argued during the hearing that Petite was remorseful about the incident and would be well served by the juvenile system, said Woods's decision was driven by public outcry.

Police say Petite and Maurice Edward Ford, both of Oxon Hill, and John L. Burgess, of Forest Heights, threw landscaping rocks weighing five to 15 pounds at oncoming motorists on the Beltway near Livingston Road in Oxon Hill about 2:30 a.m. May 27.

Ford and Burgess, both 18, were each indicted last month on 90 criminal counts, including assault with intent to murder, assault and battery, and malicious destruction of property.

The most serious charge, assault with intent to murder, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years upon conviction.

Ford and Burgess are under house arrest awaiting trial. No trial date has been set.

Assistant State's Attorney John Smathers said he will go before a grand jury today seeking the same charges against Petite.

"They were not throwing the rocks at the cars. They were throwing the rocks at the people," Smathers said during the waiver hearing. "That's quite a difference."

Ford, an Oxon Hill High School graduate, gave police "a full and complete statement detailing the incident" after his arrest in June, including that he and his accomplices were drinking in celebration of his graduation, according to a police affidavit.

According to witnesses, the assailants lured some motorists toward them by lying on the road and pretending to be injured. When the automobiles were close enough they would get up and hurl the rocks, witnesses said.

One of the rocks thrown by the assailants crashed into the window of a pickup truck, striking Destiny Morris, 15, a sleeping passenger.

Although initially not expected to survive her injuries, the girl is opening her eyes and moving her hands, but remains in a coma, according to her grandmother, Connie Hasenbuhler.

She was transferred Friday from the New Medico Meadowlands hospital in Canonsburg, Pa., to the Alfred I. DuPont Institute children's hospital in Wilmington, Del.