- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2014

A jury in Prince George’s County on Thursday convicted a 47-year-old man of four counts of first-degree murder in connection with the vicious execution-style killings of two women and two toddlers inside a Lanham apartment.

Darrell Bellard, 47, faces life in prison when he is sentenced on May 29 for the August 2010 killings of Dawn Brooks, 38, her two children, 4-year-old Shakur and 3-year-old Shayla Sikyala, and the children’s aunt, Mwasiti Sikyala, 41.

Mr. Bellard, who was related to Brooks by marriage, traveled to Maryland from Texas with 21-year-old T’Keisha Gilmer to sell drugs and was keeping a stash of marijuana at the home, police said at the time of the killings. At some point, a disagreement over missing drugs erupted between the pair and one of the women.

So Gilmer blocked the family’s escape while Mr. Bellard shot them one by one, police said. All the victims, including the children, were shot in the head.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks announced her intention to seek the death penalty against Mr. Bellard in 2011 — the first time a county prosecutor pursued a capital punishment case since 2005 — due to the vicious nature of the crime.

But legal preparations in the case were complicated — and ultimately stalled — while the prosecution and defense monitored political developments last year in Annapolis, where lawmakers considered, and then approved, a moratorium on the death penalty.

“We believe that Mr. Bellard deserves the harshest punishment under the law,” Ms. Alsobrooks said in a statement. “When he committed these murders, the top penalty was death.  Because that is no longer an option, we intend to seek a sentence of life without parole.

Gilmer pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators. She faces life in prison when she is sentenced. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

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