THE REGION

Bank Robbery Defendants Convicted

Three District men charged in a string of bank, jewelry store and post office robberies were found guilty yesterday of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and other related crimes after a four-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Gary McDuffie, 42, of the 400 block of Irving Street NW; Bennie Turner Jr., 23, of the 1300 block of Trinidad Avenue NE; and Eric Dorsey, 42, of the 3900 block of Q Street SE, were arrested March 23 after they stopped their van in Arlington to ask a police officer for directions and then drove in the opposite direction of their stated destination.

Suspicious, the officer followed and pulled over the van when the driver committed a traffic violation. A search of the van turned up a sawed-off shotgun, a pistol, masks and latex gloves.

Before their arrests, prosecutors said, the men and two accomplices commited six armed robberies from Dec. 28, 1998, to Feb. 19, including attacks on three banks and a post office in Northern Virginia, a post office in Suitland and a jewelry store in the District. Prosecutors said the men used the money to buy heroin.

Yesterday, each of the men was found guilty of conspiracy. McDuffie also was convicted of committing robberies at three banks and a post office, four counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence and witness tampering.

Eric Dorsey was found guilty of robbing a post office, one count of using a gun during a crime of violence, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

MARYLAND

Custody Case Gets Trial Date

The case to determine whether a District woman who killed an infant daughter seven years ago will be granted custody of her toddler son will be decided in a Montgomery County courtroom in December.

Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Louise G. Scrivener set a Dec. 13 trial date for the custody battle between Latrena D. Pixley and Laura Blankman. Pixley, 26, wants custody of her 3 1/2-year-old son, Cornilous, though she was convicted of smothering her 6-week-old daughter in 1992.

Blankman, 29, a Montgomery County police officer who cared for Cornilous while his mother was in jail, sought to adopt him in 1997. Another Montgomery County judge rejected that petition and granted Pixley custody of the boy, saying she was unlikely to kill him. But Maryland's highest court overturned the decision, ruling that the judge erred by failing to determine that Pixley also was unlikely to abuse or neglect him.

VIRGINIA

Suspect Charged With Rape in Chantilly

A 31-year-old Washington man was arrested in Fairfax County yesterday and charged with abducting and raping a woman in the Chantilly area early Sunday.

Fairfax County police said an 18-year-old woman accompanied Bobby Joe Leonard, of the 700 block of Chesapeake Street SE, from a residence in the District to a house being built in the 2400 block of Little Current Drive about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. The woman told police the man raped her, attacked her and then shoved her into a closet before leaving.

The woman knew Leonard, police said, and investigators obtained warrants charging him with rape and abduction with intent to defile. Detectives searching for Leonard yesterday spotted him near Alexandria and arrested him shortly afterward in the Mount Vernon area. Leonard was being held in the Fairfax County jail last night without bond.