Prince George's County homicide detectives were coping with three slayings in as many hours yesterday, as overnight violence raised to 138 the record number of murders in the county this year.
In the latest killing, a Northwest Washington man was shot to death for no apparent reason as he was driving a car on Riggs Road in Hyattsville.
Juan Martinez Ayala, 18, of the 1300 block of Randolph Street, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 1:49 a.m. shooting, according to Cpl. Carol Landrum, county police spokeswoman.
A second passenger of the car, whom police would only identify as an 18-year-old Washington man, was also wounded by a single gunshot wound to the head. He was in stable condition at Prince George's General Hospital.
A third passenger in the car dove to the roadway as the shooting began and fled. His identity had not yet been determined, police said.
Police said the assailants were in a second car that drove past the victims' auto on Riggs, then turned and drove back toward them. A series of gunshots were fired by one or more assailants in the second car. Two bullets struck Mr. Ayala in the head and right neck.
Six minutes earlier, a 29-year-old Cheverly man was fatally wounded by three suspects who approached him at a Bladensburg intersection, police said. Donald A. Waters, of the 6400 block Cheverly Terrace, was walking to a store with a friend for a pack for cigarettes when a robbery began at the intersection of 55th Avenue and Quincy Street, police said.
The three men first demanded drugs. When the victims said they had none, one gunman demanded Mr. Waters' jacket. The victim complied and then further agreed to get down on the ground before being shot in the rear right shoulder, Corporal Landrum said.
In the earliest slaying, a 37-year-old Capitol Heights man was shot to death in an apparent robbery a few blocks from his home. Gary Richard Gray, of the 1200 block of Drum Avenue, was walking to pick up a carryout order at the nearby intersection of Benning Road and Marlboro Pike when the 11:30 p.m. incident occurred.
A customer at the carryout told police that he was at a nearby pay phone when he heard a series of gunshots. At the sound, the customer tried to flee only to stumble over Mr. Gray's body.
The victim was lying in the intersection with a single chest wound. His wallet had been pulled from his pants, police said.
Previously, the worst year for Prince George's County homicides was 1989, when 127 slayings occurred. Last year, 122 people were killed.