27 years given in pizzeria robberies One worker was shot in the leg by assailant using assault weapon

June 10, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A man who told police he once worked for Pizza Hut was sentenced yesterday to spend more time in jail than he has been alive for robbing two local pizza parlors -- at least one with a semiautomatic assault weapon.

Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney sentenced Dias Daniel Peyton, 24, to 27 years in prison, the sentence requested by prosecutors. Peyton, a resident of Laurel in Prince George's County who has prior criminal convictions, is the third defendant to be sentenced in a string of armed robberies that hit Columbia pizza takeouts last summer.

The jail term is far longer than that imposed on Peyton's companions. It is more than twice the average prison sentence for armed robbery and more than 10 years above the state guidelines for sentencing in such cases.

Assistant State's Attorney Mary V. Murphy said the long sentence is the result of the violent nature of the crimes. In one case, Peyton -- armed with the assault weapon -- shot a pizza employee in the leg during the course of a robbery that netted him and a cohort $89.

The crime "was a particularly bad armed robbery," said Assistant State's Attorney Mary V. Murphy, who prosecuted Peyton. "It's not the type of thing you like to see in Howard County."

The records show Peyton and another Laurel friend participated in a robbery of a Pizza Hut at 7106 Minstrel Way off Snowden River Parkway in East Columbia in June 1996. One month later, the pair robbed the Pizz-A Boli's at 7165 Oakland Mills Road in the Stonewood Business Center.

In August, Peyton and a third friend robbed that Pizz-A Boli's again.

Peyton told Prince George's County police that he robbed the stores to earn money to care for his son and to pay off drug debts, court records show.

Peyton appears to have had an extra advantage: He told police that he was an employee of a Pizza Hut, though he did not say where.

"We pretty much knew how they operate because we work there," Peyton told police, according to court records.

Murphy said Peyton and the others always surveyed a restaurant before they robbed it, sometimes going in to eat before they stole the night's receipts.

"You've got to know your escape routes," Peyton told police. "That's how you get caught."

On June 16, 1996, just after midnight, Peyton and Tyrone Holmes, 19, were hiding behind the Pizza Hut waiting to rob the store. Holmes burst into the restaurant, pointed an assault weapon at the manager and stole $2,500 the manager was counting from that night's pizza sales. Holmes' weapon accidentally fired, leaving a bullet in the counter, according to court records. Prosecutors dropped charges against Peyton in that case as part of the plea agreement reached yesterday.

One month later, Peyton and Holmes returned to rob the Pizz-A Boli's. The store had just closed when the pair arrived just after 1 a.m.

Pointing a gun at an employee sitting in the parking lot, they stole $89 he was carrying and ordered him to open the door to the restaurant. When they saw someone inside calling police, they sprayed the area with gunfire -- shooting the employee in the leg on the parking lot, and shattering the restaurant's window. They fled with no additional money. The employee inside was unharmed.

Holmes was sentenced to 13 years in prison in April for his role in those two robberies.

In August of last year, Peyton and Laurel resident Christopher Bell walked into the Pizza-A Boli's in the early morning hours, pointed guns at the three employees and robbed them of $1,500 from pizza sales as well as $250 from the three men's wallets.

Bell, 26, was sentenced to five years without parole in April.

Prince George's County police arrested the three on separate robbery charges in that county, days after the August robbery of the Pizz-A Boli's. The three confessed to the Howard robberies.

Even with these arrests, crimes against pizzerias have continued.

Last February, two deliverymen for Papa John's pizza were robbed at gunpoint in Ellicott City. In January, a pizza deliverer from Pizz-A Boli's was robbed outside an Oakland Mills village apartment building about 8: 10 p.m. Also that month, three men attempted to rob the Pizz-A Boli's in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

In December, a former employee of Little Caesar's Pizza in Ellicott City was arrested after he told police that he got drunk and broke into the restaurant in the 9300 block of U.S. 40.

Pub Date: 6/10/97

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