BALTIMORE — A man dubbed “Mr. Sketchy” by Johns Hopkins University students who became leery of his suspicious presence around a group of sorority sisters was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for killing a student during a burglary.
The crime shocked a university where another student had beenslain nine months earlier, and university officials accelerated plans to improve security around the school.
Friends and family of the victim, Linda Trinh, 21, expressed outrage, sorrow and disbelief at the actions of Donta M. Allen, who agreed to a plea deal that means he could be eligible for parole someday.
“My life has been forever changed by the heinous acts of this evil individual,” said Quang Trinh, the victim’s brother, who said he couldn’t understand why Allen should be given a plea deal.
Mr. Trinh also condemned Allen for trying to cover up the crime by attempting to blow up the apartment. Authorities say a gas stove was left on and a candle was found nearby.
Kestrel Linder, a classmate of Miss Trinh’s, described the biomedical engineering major from Silver Spring as a person who represented “Johns Hopkins at its finest.” He said the senseless killing of the popular student who wanted to be a doctor “stung like fire” and has left an “inconceivable void” in many lives.
Allen, 28, killed Miss Trinh in January 2005 in her apartment across the street from the university’s main campus, which is set near troubled neighborhoods. The slaying underscored crime problems faced by the prestigious university where another student, Chris Elser, had been killed nearby.
Allen, for his part, told Judge Roger Brown he was “very remorseful” and that he deserved the life sentence.
“I’m sorry for what I took away from you,” he told friends and family members in court.
Prosecutor Matthew Fraling, however, described the apology as “too little, too late,” pointing out that Allen preyed on Alpha Phi sorority sisters, repeatedly stealing from them. Allen dated one of Miss Trinh’s sorority sisters and tended to hang around them, even though he was not a student.
Mr. Fraling said Allen likely wouldn’t be eligible for parole for 50 or 60 years.
Allen, who worked in restaurants near the university, pleaded guilty in November to first-degree murder on advice from his attorney, Warren Brown, who thought the evidence against his client was insurmountable.
Allen gave an incriminating statement to police, saying he intended to burglarize Miss Trinh’s apartment while she wasn’t home. When he found her in the apartment, the two got into an argument, which became violent when she tried to call police. He also told police he had burglarized the apartment once before.
Police had DNA evidence linking Allen to the crime because his genetic profile was detected under Miss Trinh’s fingernails.
Miss Trinh was found in the apartment on the afternoon of Jan. 23 after police responded to a suspicious-death call. She was found face-down in her bathtub with about two inches of water and a cell phone. She had been strangled. She had contusions on her neck and bruises on her arms and legs.
The murder prompted Johns Hopkins to speed up plans to increase security on campus with increased patrols and additional cameras. The effort to improve security began after Mr. Elser was killed in April 2004. No one has been arrested in that case.
Mr. Elser was stabbed in what police have described as a random act of violence by an intruder inside an apartment house rented to members of his fraternity. That crime occurred about six blocks from Miss Trinh’s apartment.