Three 9mm bullets sliced into John McKinney from behind, killing him. Two of them continued into Geneva Hall's chest, killing her. The gunman didn't know either of them.

All Douglas F. Lloyd knew that day in October 1997 was that a friend of his was mad at McKinney. Something to do with a craps game and angry words, he was told.

The money involved: $5.

Lloyd, 23, grabbed a gun, changed his clothes so he wouldn't be easily recognized in the neighborhood and caught up with the unarmed McKinney at North Capitol Street and Randolph Place NE. Earl L. Thurston, 24, pointed out McKinney. Lloyd opened fire. A D.C. Superior Court jury, relying on five witnesses to the crime, convicted Lloyd and Thurston in April of two counts of first-degree murder. Yesterday, Judge Ann O'Regan Keary sent the two young District men to prison for 60 years to life.

"At bottom, these are senseless crimes, without any basis, without any rational reason. It gives me no great pleasure to say that I see no basis for any particular leniency," said Keary, who called the government's case "very strong."

Lloyd made a point of saying that if he received a long sentence, he would never again see his children--he has five or six, his attorney said--as a free man. Neither defendant is likely to be eligible for parole for at least 50 years.

"It's the same cycle, over and over," said the lawyer, Phyllis Baron, noting that Lloyd's father, like countless District men, did time during his son's upbringing. "I can't tell you how many times I ask, 'Have you seen your father?'

"'Yeah, he's down at Lorton.'"

Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines sought the maximum sentence. She noted they had been given second chances after prior convictions. She called it a "brazen, cowardly act" to shoot McKinney in the back.

The shooting was triggered by a craps game. A friend of both defendants was angry with McKinney, who had prevented the friend from taking $5 from the game. The friend enlisted Thurston, who enlisted Lloyd. As Sines put it, regarding Lloyd: "One of his associates lost face. That was all it took."

McKinney, a father and former U.S. Postal Service worker, was talking with Hall, a mother and teacher of disabled children at an Adelphi school, when Lloyd opened fire. They died within minutes.

"Mary McKinney misses his jokes, the laughter they shared and their debates," Sines said of the dead man's sister. "She still talks to him, but he's not there to respond in kind."

Thurston cried on the witness stand during the trial and gave a helpful videotaped statement after his arrest, said defense attorney Douglas B. Evans Sr. But Thurston did not help his cause yesterday in remarks that left Keary "puzzled."

"I ain't had nothing to do with this, but I feel sorry for the families," Thurston said. This came shortly after Lloyd told Keary: "I'm not no killer. I'm sorry, but I didn't kill 'em."

The jury--and Keary--thought otherwise.