The two men accused in the drive-by slayings of two high school seniors last week pleaded not guilty to the killings yesterday in District of Columbia Superior Court after the suspected driver of the truck used in the killings had turned himself in to police.
Jermaine Antuon Johnson, 24, and Carlton J. Blount, 19, were ordered held without bond yesterday during the hearing after being charged with first-degree murder while armed. They are accused in the Feb. 8 shootings of Andre Tyrone Wallace and Natasha Monique Marsh, both 17 and seniors at Woodrow Wilson High School.
The two men used their cellular phones to track down and kill Andre and Natasha as the two high school sweethearts unloaded groceries at her Brookland home, a prosecutor said yesterday.
"They were looking for the [couple]," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Anderson during an arraignment in Superior Court. "They were using their cell phones to find out where they were and what they were driving."
A preliminary hearing for the two was set for March 1 before Superior Court Judge Russell F. Canan.
Miss Anderson said cellular phone records will show that the phones of both men were used as they tried to locate the teen-agers.
"[A] witness … states that shortly before the murder, she had several telephone conversations with Blount where he was trying to determine the location of the [couple] and the car they were driving," according to an affidavit for the arrest warrants of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Blount.
Miss Anderson said Mr. Blount and Mr. Johnson were looking for Andre after Andre and Mr. Blount had fought earlier that night at a basketball game at Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest.
Mr. Blount, a former Wilson student who turned 19 the day of the shootings, had asked Natasha several times to go out with him and did so again during the game.
The fight with Andre started after Mr. Blount called her a derogatory name when she rejected him, said a court source familiar with the case.
Court documents filed yesterday show that Andre and Mr. Blount began fighting around 8 p.m. inside the school's gymnasium.
Mr. Blount was ejected from the game and left with Mr. Johnson in a black Ford Expedition, court records show.
Witnesses told police they heard an argument between Andre and a man who looked like Mr. Blount about 10:30 p.m. outside Natasha's home in 3600 block of 17th Street NW. The witnesses said the man arguing with Andre pulled a handgun and began firing several shots at Andre and Natasha.
The witnesses said a man who looked like Mr. Johnson was driving the Ford Expedition. The sport utility vehicle is registered to an Upper Marlboro, Md., woman, but Mr. Johnson is the only person insured to drive the vehicle, court records show.
Another witness told police that Mr. Johnson admitted he drove Mr. Blount to the scene of the shootings where Mr. Blount killed the two teen-agers.
Nikki Lotze, Mr. Johnson's attorney, said there was not enough evidence to hold her client.
"There is no evidence Mr. Johnson was in that car that night," she said.
Claudia Critchlow, Mr. Blount's attorney, also said the evidence against her client was flimsy.
Mr. Johnson surrendered to D.C. police yesterday but refused to be questioned by detectives. Mr. Blount turned himself in Tuesday as Andre's and Natasha's funeral was under way but also would not answer detectives' questions.
Prosecutors on Monday issued arrest warrants in the case but sealed the records until yesterday's court appearances.
"I'm very satisfied. My hat goes off to the detectives in the 5th District who did a whole lot of work to get the warrants for these arrests," Assistant Chief William McManus said outside the 5th District station on Bladensburg Road.
Police yesterday towed the 1997 Ford Expedition that police said Mr. Johnson drove during the shooting from a police storage facility to a lot behind the 5th District station after combing it for evidence.
Police focused their probe on Mr. Blount after interviewing witnesses and seeing his involvement in a fight with Andre in a videotaped recording taken at the Wilson basketball game just hours before the teen-age couple was shot.
Assistant Chief McManus said Mr. Blount has ties to the 1-7 crew, named for the area of 17th and Euclid streets NW where the group hangs out. Mr. Blount lives with his grandmother on Fuller Street, in the neighborhood of 17th and Euclid streets.
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