Prince George's County police arrested five Fort Washington men yesterday and charged each with murder in the shootings of a Navy petty officer and a Waldorf man whose badly beaten bodies were found along a back road in Accokeek this month.
Referring to the June 10 slayings of Lea Anne Brown, 24, and Michael Eugene Patten, 29, as "two of the most brutal" he has seen, Police Chief John S. Farrell announced the arrests of Marco Dominique Scutchings-Butler, 18, Robert Alan Odum Jr., 23, Cortez Nicholas Carroll, 22, Eric Ronnell Thomas, 22, and Aaron Thearone Hollingsworth, 18.
All five men, who authorities believe are responsible for a string of carjackings and robberies in southern Prince George's, were charged with two counts of first-degree murder. In addition, Scutchings-Butler, who turned 18 the day after the bodies were found, and Odum were charged with two counts each of armed robbery and two counts of first-degree assault, and Carroll was charged with carjacking. The men are being held without bond at the county detention center.
There may be others involved, Farrell said, adding that the investigation continues.
"[Brown and Patten] were killed in cold blood," Farrell said. "It was brutal, premeditated murder, and I can't think of any other way to classify it."
Several firearms have been recovered, but police were unsure yesterday whether they were used to shoot Brown and Patten.
Farrell and investigators said Brown and Patten left a Northwest Washington restaurant, Lulu's Club Mardi Gras, about 2 a.m. The couple, who had been dating about a month, then headed toward Patten's apartment in Waldorf. Along the way, they stopped at a United Methodist church in the 12900 block of Indian Head Highway in Fort Washington, and either one or both got out of Patten's 1990 four-door Acura Legend.
The suspects may have been waiting, or it may have been an impulsive decision, but the men approached Brown and Patten and demanded their wallets, police said.
The couple were "brutally, brutally beaten," said Farrell, between pauses. Patten was put in the trunk immediately, and it's likely he was unconscious. But Brown remained outside the vehicle, and she "clearly struggled for her life," he said.
"[Brown] did the best she could to stay alive and to not become a victim," Farrell said.
Brown, who was recently named Sailor of the Quarter and was assigned to the Military Sealift Command at the Washington Navy Yard, also was placed in the trunk, Farrell said.
Patten and Brown were driven to the 17800 block of Livingston Road, where they were pushed into a wooded area about three feet from the roadway and shot execution-style. It wasn't until that afternoon, about 3 p.m., that their bodies were discovered by a bicyclist. They had no identification, and it was several days before police confirmed their identities.
Patten's vehicle was found a few days later, in the 400 block of Dias Drive in Fort Washington, just a few blocks from the church where police said the couple was confronted.
Shortly before noon on Tuesday, police executed several search and arrest warrants for Carroll, Scutchings-Butler and Odum, as well as Corey Peterson, 19, who was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and carjacking in a similar crime committed in the 3000 block of Raymond Court in Fort Washington about an hour before Brown and Patten were killed. Peterson is not a suspect in the couple's slaying, police said.
Farrell declined to say what was recovered during the searches, but he did say that investigators have compiled "extensive forensic and other such evidence" against the suspects.
Police said tips and other evidence led them to Thomas and Hollingsworth.
Farrell said that the five men probably are part of a larger gang and that they may be responsible for a number of carjackings and other violent crimes in the county and Washington region, including a liquor store robbery and a carjacking just before they allegedly beat and killed the couple.
Since January, there have been 138 carjackings in the county, up from 65 during the same period last year. Homicides also have increased, from 37 to 51, for the same period in 2000.
Patten's and Brown's families could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a close friend of Brown's, who attended high school with her in Sanderson, Tex., said he was relieved that arrests have been made.
"This has just been mind-boggling, something we never would've imagined or expected," said Juan Louis Ponce, 21. "She had the kindest heart, someone who always stood by you, no matter what."
Brown, who had been in Washington for 18 months, was remembered yesterday by her superiors as a "fine, fine sailor."
"The word superstar comes to mind," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Troy Flury. "I was sickened and angry at the crime. It's nice to see that everything has come to a closure."
Robert Alan Odum Jr.Marco Scutchings-ButlerAaron Thearone HollingsworthPrince George's Police Chief John S. Farrell holds a news conference to announce arrests in the slayings of Lea Anne Brown and Michael Patten.