GREENBELT - A federal judge sentenced a Bowie man yesterday to life in prison without parole for the January 1996 shooting deaths of three District of Columbia women on an isolated road in the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte also ordered Willis Mark Haynes to pay restitution to the victims' families for funeral expenses. The judge added 45 years to the sentence because a firearm was used.
Haynes, 23, could have been given the death penalty for shooting to death Tamika Black, 19, Tanji Jackson, 21, and Mishann Chinn, 23. The federal jury that convicted him in June of kidnapping and killing the women decided against a death sentence after hearing testimony about Haynes' troubled childhood.
According to testimony, the women were at a party in Laurel when they accepted a ride home from Haynes and Dustin John Higgs in the early hours of Jan. 27, 1996. Instead of driving the women into Washington, the men drove into the federal wildlife refuge on Route 197, ordered the women out of the vehicle and shot them.
During the trial, defense attorneys acknowledged that Haynes fired the fatal shots. But they argued that Haynes, then 18, pulled the trigger at the direction of Higgs, who had quarreled with one of the women at the party.
Higgs, 28, a resident of Laurel, is scheduled to stand trial in September in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Federal prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.