Telling him he had shown no remorse for his crimes, a federal judge yesterday sentenced Willis Mark Haynes, the Bowie man who murdered three young District women on a desolate stretch of Route 197 in Beltsville in 1996, to the maximum: life in prison without parole, plus 45 years.
He also ordered Haynes, 22, to pay the victims' families more than $14,000 to cover burial costs--money that is to come from the 25 cents an hour he will earn for prison labor.
"The jury showed extraordinary compassion to you," U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte told Haynes, referring to the jury's decision in June to spare him from the death penalty, which prosecutors were seeking.
Haynes was convicted in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt in May of three counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and a weapons violation.
During yesterday's 3 1/2-hour hearing, Haynes, dressed in a gray sweat shirt and bluejeans, grinned broadly while chatting with a defense attorney, glared at Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Wilkinson and smiled at a member of his defense team as U.S. marshals led him away in handcuffs.
Haynes, who did not testify during his eight-week trial, spoke only briefly yesterday when Messitte asked if he had anything to say.
"I'm sorry to my family. Sorry to my wife. Yeah, sorry to the victims' families. I really don't have much more to say," Haynes said in a barely audible voice.
Haynes was convicted of kidnapping Tamika Black, 19, Tanji Jackson, 21, and Mishann Chinn, 23, and then shooting them to death a little after 4 a.m. Jan. 27, 1996. Haynes was tried in federal court because the slayings were on federal property.
Black was a teacher's aide at a District private school; Jackson worked at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt; and Chinn worked with a Temple Hills church choir for children.
According to testimony at Haynes's trial, Haynes shot the women to death at the direction of an older friend, Dustin John Higgs, 26. The events that led to the slayings occurred during a party that night at Higgs's apartment in Laurel, according to testimony.
Haynes, Higgs and a third man, Victor Gloria, drank heavily and smoked a cigar laced with marijuana, while the women drank little or not at all at the party, according to court testimony.
Jackson rebuffed an advance by Higgs and led the women out of the apartment, according to testimony.
Enraged when he saw Jackson write down his address and the license number of his Mazda MPV, Higgs got his .38-caliber handgun and led the men out to pursue the women, according to testimony. Higgs feared that Jackson knew people who could hurt him, according to testimony.
Haynes, Higgs and Gloria got into the Mazda, picked up the women and drove onto Route 197, according to testimony from Gloria, who pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murders. On a rain-slicked patch, Higgs stopped, ordered the women out and handed the gun to Haynes, who stepped out and began firing, according to testimony.
Haynes told investigators from the FBI and the U.S. Park Police that Higgs told him he had "better make sure they're dead" as he handed Haynes the gun.
During the guilt phase of the trial, Haynes's attorneys did not dispute that Haynes killed the women. Instead, in an effort to shield Haynes from the death penalty, defense attorneys Barry Boss and Joshua R. Treem argued that Haynes feared Higgs and shot the women at his direction.
Higgs is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 5 for the slayings. Prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty against Higgs.
Defense attorneys presented evidence during the penalty phase that Haynes had suffered through a horrific childhood, being subjected to physical and emotional abuse from his mother, a diagnosed schizophrenic. Haynes's father was arrested 57 times by the time Haynes was a teenager, according to testimony.
Haynes began drinking at age 7, tried to kill himself with pills at age 11, and was shuffled in and out of foster homes as a teenager, according to testimony. Defense attorneys argued that Haynes's traumatic upbringing put him on an inevitable path to violence and that his life should be spared.
But in sentencing Haynes yesterday, Messitte said that nothing that had happened to Haynes excused what he did.
Messitte ended the hearing by reciting a poem, "The Dead Young Soldiers," by Archibald MacLeish, in honor of the three victims.
As everyone in the courtroom listened in silence, Messitte read the poem, which ends: "We leave you our deaths. Give them meaning. We were young. We have died. Remember us."