Man, 25, pleads guilty in killing of pharmacist

Woman was robbed, shot in woods after carjacking

Defendant gets life sentence

3 teens await sentencing in state court in homicide

April 01, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore man who authorities say masterminded the carjacking death of a Glen Burnie pharmacist two summers ago pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison yesterday as part of a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed him to avoid a death sentence.

Jamal D. Barnes, 25, pleaded guilty to federal carjacking charges in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, acknowledging that he targeted Yvette A. Beakes as she left a tavern near Oriole Park at Camden Yards in August 2001 because he needed money to cover up an earlier crime - cashing a stolen $1,367 insurance check.

In a brazen attack that outraged city residents, Barnes and three teen-age companions kidnapped Beakes, 26, from her silver Acura at gunpoint and forced her to withdraw $500 at an automated teller machine before driving her to a wooded area in Southwest Baltimore and shooting her in the head.

Beakes' mother, LaVerna J. Cordova, carried a single red rose and a framed photograph of her daughter into the courtroom, where she tearfully described from the witness stand how Beakes' life "was brutally and senselessly taken for $500."

Jason Beakes, the victim's brother, looked stonily at Barnes and told him he deserved to die in prison. "My final hope for you, Jamal Barnes, is that your final hours are devoid of hope and miserable," he said.

Barnes wore a long white T-shirt and scraggly dreadlocks pulled back in an elastic band as he stood mostly silent yesterday before U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis. Barnes entered his guilty plea and acknowledged that he understood that he was giving up his right to a trial and to an appeal, but rejected two offers by the judge to elaborate on his decision.

As he imposed the life sentence, Davis praised the efforts of police in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County and investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for protecting the community from "people like Jamal Barnes - of which, unfortunately, there are just too many."

Turning to Barnes directly, the judge said: "Mr. Barnes, you have hurt the community. You have hurt the Beakes family, and I can only hope someday you will have some insight into that."

The case against Barnes was one of the first violent crime cases transferred from the city court system to federal court under U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio after he took office a year ago. The state's top federal prosecutor yesterday called the case a "prototype" for how state and federal prosecutors can work together to get maximum prison time for the city's worst criminals.

Barnes had faced the possibility of the federal death penalty, although U.S. prosecutors entered into plea negotiations before they formally filed notice that they would seek a death sentence.

In state court, prosecutors could not have pursued the death penalty against Barnes because Maryland law would have required independent corroboration of who shot Beakes - not just incriminating statements by codefendants - to sustain a death sentence.

Unlike in state court, Barnes will serve his life sentence with no chance for parole.

"Simply put, life means exactly what it says - life," DiBiagio said yesterday. "No appeals. No second-guessing. It's over."

Three other young men charged in Beakes' death pleaded guilty in state court and are awaiting sentencing. Brian Wilson and Larry J. Walker Jr., both 15 at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty in February in city Circuit Court to numerous felonies, including carjacking and first-degree murder.

The fourth defendant, Brian McMillan, who was 17 at the time of the attack, pleaded guilty in state court to charges of using a handgun while committing a violent crime, kidnapping and robbery with a deadly weapon.

Under terms of their plea agreements, McMillan and Walker are expected to receive life sentences, with all but 45 years suspended. Wilson is expected to be sentenced to life in prison, with all but 35 years suspended.

In federal court yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert R. Harding outlined the details of Beakes' death, an account that began with the simplest motive: a search for easy money. According to court papers and Harding's account, Barnes needed a quick way to get cash to repay a Park Heights check-cashing shop where he had cashed a stolen Allstate Insurance check for $1,367.

On Aug. 8, 2001, Beakes had gone to meet friends at Pickles Pub near Camden Yards. Authorities said she was targeted as she left the tavern that night by Barnes and his accomplices as they combed the streets, looking for unsuspecting drivers who appeared wealthy.

After trailing Beakes' new Acura almost to her Glen Burnie apartment, the young men staged an accident by ramming into the back of the Acura with a van driven by Barnes. When Beakes got out of her car to inspect the damage, she was grabbed at gunpoint by Walker, who wore a ski mask and wielded a Llama .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

An anonymous caller near the scene of the abduction dialed 911 from a pay phone just before midnight Aug. 8 but quickly hung up. Moments later, a woman called back to the Anne Arundel emergency dispatcher to report a car accident and an assault on a woman, investigators have said.

Police were dispatched to the pay phone to investigate the first anonymous call, but they were not told about the second call that detailed the carjacking and described the vehicles.

In the aftermath of the case, two Anne Arundel County 911 operators were fired for failing to pass on information that might have helped save Beakes, who was killed about two hours after she was abducted.

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