Trone Tyrone Ashford, on trial in the shooting deaths of two Dunkin' Donuts employees last fall and the wounding of a third, was alone with the victims in a back room of the Camp Springs shop when shots were fired, a teenager who participated in the crime testified yesterday.
Alicia N. Holloway, 17, told a Prince George's County Circuit Court jury that she was with the third co-defendant, John Lemon Epps IV, 20, or was able to see him when she heard each of four shots that were fired about 3 a.m. Oct. 15.
Holloway testified that, moments later, when Ashford climbed into the getaway car, he said that he had just shot three people. Holloway is the third witness who has testified to having heard Ashford admit to the shootings.
Ashford, 26, of the 4000 block of 28th Street in Temple Hills, is charged with two counts of felony murder, one count of attempted murder, armed robbery and arson in connection with the fatal robbery. Prosecutors allege that Ashford used his pistol-grip shotgun in the attack and that he and Epps poured gasoline in the doughnut shop, set it ablaze and left the victims for dead. State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson is seeking the death penalty for Ashford, the alleged sole gunman, if he is convicted of the killings.
Three Indian immigrants were slain or seriously wounded in the attack: Kanu Patel, 28, and Mukesh Patel, 35, were killed when they were shot at point-blank range as they lay on the floor of a back room of the Dunkin' Donuts shop. Ashvin Patel, 44, who was rescued by firefighters who arrived to battle the blaze, was shot in the abdomen and left arm. None of the victims was related.
Kevin Shiplett, 20, who was in the getaway car but was not charged in the crime, testified last week that Ashford said he had just shot three people when he returned from the doughnut shop, and a Prince George's County police homicide detective testified that Ashford admitted to the shootings.
Holloway pleaded guilty June 4 to two counts of felony murder. Under her plea bargain, in which she agreed to testify against Ashford, the maximum sentence she could receive is 20 years in prison. Epps is awaiting trial on two counts of felony murder, one count of attempted murder and other charges.
In a barely audible voice, Holloway testified that Ashford drove to the doughnut shop, retrieved the shotgun from the trunk, loaded it and handed it to Epps and led the way into the doughnut shop. Ashford, who has a degenerative back condition, jumped over the counter and was then handed the weapon by Epps, Holloway testified.
She added that, while she and Epps tried to rifle the cash register, Ashford herded the three employees into a back room. Moments later, she heard a shot, Holloway testified.
When a customer began to walk into the store, Holloway testified, she went out to tell her it was closed. After the customer left, Holloway said, she could still see Epps at the counter and she heard two more shots. Holloway then went back into the store and was near Epps when a fourth and final shot rang out from the back room, the teenager testified.
CAPTION: Kanu Patel, 28, was shot at point-blank range and killed in the back of the Dunkin' Donuts where he worked.
CAPTION: Mukesh Patel, 35, was killed along with a co-worker at the doughnut shop, which robbers then set ablaze.