A 47-year-old Texas man was found guilty Friday morning in an Upper Marlboro county court room of four counts of first-degree murder and related charges for the 2010 deaths of two woman and two small children.
Darrell Lynn Bellard of the 2700 block of Avenue H in Dickinson, Texas was found guilty in the shooting of Dawn Yvette Brooks, 38; Mwasiti Sikyala, 41; Shayla Shante Sikyala, 3; and Shakur Sylvester Sikyala, 4. Brooks was the mother of the children, and Mwasiti Sikyala was their paternal aunt, authorities said. All lived in the 6800 block of Third Street in the Lanham area, where their bodies were discovered about 3 a.m. on Friday August 6, 2010, in a garage apartment amid piles of trash and debris.
Prince George's Police officials said that Bellard, shot the four victims execution-style, firing multiple bullets into each one, and that T'keisha Nicole Gilmer, 18, blocked their escape.
According to Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, Bellard killed them because he believed Brooks and Sikyala were responsible for approximately 60 pounds of marijuana disappearing, that Bellard brought with him from Texas to sell.
“There is no crime more heinous than killing defenseless children,” Alsobrooks said. “I am proud of the hard work of our prosecutors and police officers who worked tirelessly to bring Mr. Bellard to justice.”
On August 6, 2010, Bellard was driving around the area with Brooks, her two children and his girlfriend, Tkeisha Gilmer. When they returned to Brooks’ home, Sikyala told Bellard that three masked men had come to the house, ransacked it and taken the marijuana, which Bellard had left in a cooler in the bathroom of the house.
Believing that Brooks and Sikyala had something to do with the disappearance of the marijuana, he marched them into the home and began to interrogate them. When they were not able to tell Bellard where the drugs were, he killed them. Police were able to move quickly and Bellard and Gilmer were arrested the next day and charged with the killings.
Upon taking office in January 2011, Alsobrooks’ first major decision was how to handle this case and she chose to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. She had to withdraw that notice and file a motion seeking life without parole when the state abolished the death penalty last year.
“We believe that Mr. Bellard deserves the harshest punishment under the law,” Alsobrooks said. “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."
In addition to four counts of first-degree murder, Bellard was found guilty of four counts of use of handgun in the commission of a crime of violence and three counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Sentencing is currently scheduled for May 29, 2014.
Gilmer pled guilty to four counts of first degree murder in November 2011 and testified against Bellard. She is facing a life sentence. Sentencing was originally scheduled for April 18, 2014, but it has been continued and a new date has not been set.
At the beginning of the trial, Bellard’s attorneys filed a motion seeking a sentence by the trial jury if he was convicted.
Prosecutors Wes Adams and Joe Ruddy argued that a defendant’s right to a jury sentence would have to be created by law and no such law currently exists. Adams and Ruddy cited the current law and case law that states that a judge will impose a sentence in all cases in which a convicted defendant is facing life without parole. Additionally, Adams and Ruddy noted that there is no guidance on how to instruct the trial jury as to what they must consider when imposing a sentence and that could make it very difficult for them to perform such a task.
In denying the defense motion for a jury sentencing, the Honorable Dwight Jackson cited the Court of Appeals rulings that explicitly states that the trial judge will conduct sentencing in a case in which a defendant is found guilty of an offense punishable by a sentence of life without parole.