A Temple Hills man pleaded guilty yesterday to the shotgun deaths of two Dunkin' Donuts employees and the slaying of a Brandywine man who had stopped to help him and several others who had staged a car breakdown. The guilty pleas mean that the man, John Lemon Epps IV, 21, avoids a possible death penalty, Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson said.
Epps entered the pleas--to two first-degree murder counts and one first-degree felony murder count-- before Prince George's Circuit Court Judge William B. Spellbring.
The first killing occurred in September 1998 when Brentley Jayson Youmans of Brandywine was carjacked and shot to death after he stopped to help several men who had staged a breakdown, prosecutors said.
In a statement of facts read in open court yesterday by Assistant State's Attorney John Maloney, Epps admitted he shot Youmans four times with a handgun.
In addition to the first-degree felony murder count, Epps also pleaded guilty to robbery with a deadly weapon and use of a handgun in commission of a felony. Epps could receive a sentence of life without parole plus 20 years when he is sentenced on Dec. 21.
Epps also pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the Oct. 15, 1998, slayings of two employees of a Dunkin' Donuts shop in Camp Springs. He will be sentenced by Circuit Court Judge E. Allen Shepherd on Dec. 21 in that case.
Kanu Patel and Makesh Patel, Indian immigrants who were not related, were shot to death when Epps and two others robbed the eatery and set it afire.
Trone Tyrone Ashford, 27, of Temple Hills was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in June in connection with the Dunkin' Donuts slayings and is serving a life sentence. Alicia Holloway, 17, of Fort Washington, pleaded guilty two counts of felony murder and is scheduled to be sentenced by Shepherd on Oct. 14.
Two of Epps's codefendants are awaiting trial in the Youmans case. The murder trial of Theodore Briscoe Jr., 21, is scheduled to begin on Nov. 15, and Ashford is scheduled to be tried on Feb. 14.