A former civilian clerk at Quantico Marine Base was convicted yesterday of murdering a Marine corporal in an attempt to hide her involvement in an alleged embezzlement scheme in the helicopter squadron that serves President Bush.

Markeithia Renee Reeves, 24, of Suitland, entered an Alford plea in Prince William County Circuit Court just as she was to begin her first-degree murder trial in the death of Cpl. Estella Pearson. Pearson, 26, a Quantico clerk whose responsibilities included reviewing travel vouchers, was found shot to death March 5 in her car in the parking lot of the Prince William Shopping Center on Jefferson Davis Highway.

By entering an Alford plea, Reeves did not admit guilt, but acknowledged that the state had enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

Sentencing for Reeves was set for Jan. 9. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years to life.

A second defendant in the murder case, Arlington resident Tania Theresa Morton, 23, a former civilian clerk in the Department of the Navy, is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday.

Following Reeves's plea, prosecutors called two witnesses to the stand to substantiate the case against her.

According to testimony yesterday, Pearson was murdered shortly after it became apparent that travel vouchers were being falsified involving members of the Quantico-based Helicopter Squadron One, which transports President Bush and other government officials.

Secret Service agent Robert Turner testified that 44 U.S. Treasury checks totaling $33,000 had been traced to Reeves and Morton. Reeves worked in the same department as Pearson and was responsible for preparing travel vouchers for employees to go on temporary assignments. Investigators believe she prepared the vouchers using names of employees; she and Morton then cashed the vouchers. The 44 checks all bore endorsements forged by the two women, Turner said.

Pearson's supervisor asked her to verify several suspicious travel vouchers, including a $726 check written to Sgt. Scott Arvin, testified Turner, who said that Pearson learned that Arvin had not received the money. "Markeithia saw this," Turner said in an interview after the hearing. "Then she started to realize they had caught on."

A government calendar diary found in Reeves's car after the murder contained 10 names and serial numbers of false travel orders, Turner testified.

According to court records, Reeves allegedly told Morton she needed to go to Quantico three days later to "take care of a problem." According to documents, Morton told police investigators that she drove Reeves's car and waited while Reeves killed Pearson.

Naval Investigative Service agent Greg Golden said the NIS and Secret Service will submit the results of their investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office later and that the office will make a decision about possible prosecution on embezzlement charges.

Defense co-counsel Lawrie Falck Rollison said Reeves had contacted her and attorney Mark Thomas Crossland late Monday afternoon saying that she wanted to enter a plea.

Family members of Pearson's who came from Detroit for the trial said they were happy with the plea.

"I hope they give her life because that's what she deserves for taking one," said Pearson's sister, Bernice Pearson Dancy, 34.

Of her sister, Dancy said, "I think she deserves a Purple Heart for this because she lost her life in the line of military duty, just the same as if she had been in the Persian Gulf in a war."