A Capitol Heights man accused in a series of armed holdups throughout the area in a 2 1/2 -month crime spree was convicted yesterday of robbing a Jessup gas station in January 1995 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The Howard County Circuit Court jury of seven men and five women deliberated less than three hours before returning guilty verdicts against Kenneth M. Hiligh, 23, on charges of robbery with a deadly weapon, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony, assault and other weapons offenses.
Judge Raymond Kane's sentence included a mandatory five-year, no-parole term for the handgun offense. Prosecutor Mary V. Murphy sought the 25-year sentence while defense attorney Richard O'Connor asked for a 10-year sentence.
"The facts [in the case] were egregious," Judge Kane said.
Hiligh is to begin another trial Monday in two other Howard County robberies. He already has been convicted of armed robbery in Prince George's County and has a case pending in Anne Arundel County.
Police say Hiligh and a co-defendant, Terrance Maith, 21, of Suitland, robbed a number of gas stations, convenience stores and motels in the three counties from Dec. 7, 1994, to Feb. 24, 1995.
Maith has pleaded guilty in Howard and Anne Arundel counties under an agreement that prosecutors say will result in a 25-year sentence, including a 10-year mandatory term for handgun offenses, for all his cases.
He is scheduled to be sentenced March 12 for his guilty pleas to three armed robberies in Howard County.
Hiligh, already serving a sentence for a previous felony assault conviction in Prince George's County, could receive more prison time at sentencing in Prince George's County and if he is convicted in the pending trials in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
His conviction yesterday was for the robbery of Harry's Tiger Mart in the 7900 block of Washington Blvd. on Jan. 15, 1995. He confessed to the crime after Prince George's police arrested him March 20, 1995, while looking for Maith.
At trial, Hiligh, testified that the confession came under duress -- he said officers beat him while arresting him and then kept him chained to a wall alone in a room at the police station for 24 hours.
In her closing argument, Ms. Murphy conceded that Hiligh sustained "a bump on the head," but said he freely confessed to the crimes.
Ms. Murphy added that a bandanna found on Hiligh when he was arrested was similar to one worn by robbers captured on videotape at the Tiger Mart. She also said that the bandanna was in Hiligh's pocket, folded in a triangular shape "as in a cowboy movie, when a robber comes up to the train with a mask."