|HOME | US EDITION | REPORT|
June 15, 1999
Dunkin' Donut Double Murder Trial Opens
A P Kamath
It was not just another robbery that led to murder. For as 26-year-old Trone Tryrone Ashford shot three Indian employees of a Dunkin' Donuts restaurant in Camp Spring, on the outskirts of Washington DC, he hit them with his shot gun, shouted racial epithets, taunted their accents and halting English. Ashford and his friend, including a 17-year-old girl, were on their way to Washington DC to buy cocaine -- and they were upset that the employees took time to understand their demand for money.
A jury in Prince George's County began hearing evidence against Ashford last weekend but his lawyer, Michael S Blumenthal, suggested in his opening statement that John Lemon Epps IV, one of Ashford's two co-defendants, was the gunman. Blumenthal also asked the jurors of the police version, noting that they had questioned Ashford for over 13 hours.
Ashford and Epps also are charged in a murder that occurred in a nearby town before the Dunkin ' Donuts killings.
If found guilty, Ashford, who got away from the shop with less than $ 100, could face a death sentence. Leaving the three men for dead in the back of the restaurant, Assistant State Attorney John Maloney told the jurors, Ashford and another man poured gasoline inside the building. They ignited it, committing "a crime of unimaginable horror".
Maloney said police found at Ashford's home the weapon used in the crime. Ashford initially would not admit his role in the killing, blaming his friend for the shooting, police testified in the court. He asserted that Epps did the shooting and gave him the gun to hold, and then he (Ashford) had fired a shot accidentally. But under persistent questioning and after being told that his friend was co-operating with the police, Ashford said: "I was scared and drunk with panic. I'd never shot anybody before."
Kanu Patel, 28, and Mukesh Patel, 35, were killed on October 15, and the police nabbed the suspects within a few days. Ashvin Patel, 44, was shot in the upper left thigh and left forearm; the robbers thought he was dead. Ashwin Patel was rescued by firefighters, who responded to phone calls by motorists passing the burning store.
One of Ashford's co-defendants, Alicia N Holloway, 17, pleaded guilty last Friday to two counts of felony and murder. She snatched money from a cash register and got $ 25 as her share of the crime, Maloney said.
Maloney also said that Kevin Shifflet, 20, who was with Ashford, Epps and Holloway when they drove to the doughnut shop but stayed out, told his mother about the murders after he got home.
Shifflet, who says he is co-operating with the police to make peace with his conscience, is not charged with the murders. He told the court that when Epps, Ashford, and Holloway returned from the donut shop, Ashford said he had just killed three people.
A few minutes before the robbery and shooting, Shiplett said he had joined Ashford, and Epps in drinking heavily and smoking marijuana at a friend's home. Shifflet testified that he told the truth to get the matter off his chest.
Ashvin Patel told the jurors he cannot move the fingers of his left hand and is unable to work. He suffers continually from nightmares.
BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK