In November 2016, Elliott A. Starks had been out of prison for only about five months after serving 17 years for a murder he committed when he was teenager.
On the evening of Nov. 7 that year, Starks met Antina Pratt, one of his Southeast Washington neighbors, as Pratt got off a Metro bus after finishing her waitressing shift at a local Denny’s restaurant.
Surveillance cameras showed Starks walking with Pratt for several blocks until the two were out of the camera’s range. It was then, prosecutors say, that Starks stabbed Pratt 29 times, leaving her to die.
On Friday, during an emotional hearing in D.C. Superior Court, Starks, 35, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder in Pratt’s killing.
“What was so eerie and chilling about that video is Ms. Pratt is seen casually walking with the defendant. She felt safe with him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman told the judge after viewing the surveillance footage.
Starks did not provide a motive in Pratt’s killing. The defendant did not speak during sentencing, allowing his public defender to speak for him. But Liebman said he thought Starks needed cash and stole money from Pratt, based on Pratt’s belongings having been strewn about in a wooded area of a dead-end street where her body was found near Suitland Parkway and Barry Farm in Southeast Washington.
Authorities identified Starks after his DNA was found under Pratt’s fingernails. “She fought back that night,” Liebman said.
In 1999, when Starks was 16, he shot an unarmed man during a dispute. He was charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 14 to 42 years in prison. He was released in 2016.
Both sides said they agreed on the 15-year sentence because Starks faces and additional 25 years in prison as a result of committing the murder while on parole.
But the sentence was not enough for Pratt’s family, including her three sons.
“There is nothing that can bring her back,” Judge Craig S. Iscoe told the family members sitting in the courtroom who were wiping tears from their faces. “But I am sure everyone in this courtroom wishes there were.”