Victim Misael Flores (unknown, Baltimore Sun )
A Pasadena teenager pleaded guilty Thursday to two murders after prosecutors and defense lawyers belatedly learned that he admitted several months ago to a deputy sheriff that he had shot one of the victims.
The plea by Vincent Ethan Bunner, now 18, ended his trial on first-degree murder and related counts in the Nov. 12, 2010 fatal shooting of Misael Flores during a botched robbery.
Prosecutors said Bunner's disclosure to an Anne Arundel County deputy sheriff came as he was being transported within the courthouse for a pretrial hearing.
The Sheriff's Office passed along that information this week, when supervisors learned of it, but after the trial had begun.
Bunner "admitted to a deputy sheriff here in the courthouse that he had in fact committed the shooting, but before that shooting somebody already had shot [Flores]," Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Evans told the judge.
With his plea, Bunner admitted being present when a murder occurred, his lawyer said.
Flores, on the eve of his 21st birthday, stopped at Mr. Wings & Pizza to say hello to a friend who was working there. Four people burst in and announced a holdup, and when Flores told them to leave, he was gunned down, Evans said.
The four left without taking money. When they returned to the yard of a friend where the robbery plan was hatched, Bunner laughed and bragged about the slaying, saying that Flores deserved it, the prosecutor said.
The cashier testified Tuesday that she had recognized Bunner. He was apprehended in about eight hours.
Three other teens are charged in Flores' killing, including one who was to testify against Bunner. One of the guns used in the shooting turned up in a car stopped in February 2011 in an unrelated homicide. The other gun used was under the mattress of another friend, Evans said.
Bunner also pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in the Aug. 9, 2010 fatal shooting of Youssef Kamal Erian Attia, 48, of Glen Burnie. Attia was killed as he tried to flee a gunman during a predawn attempted robbery as he worked alone as a clerk at a 7-Eleven. Bunner and another youth charged in Flores' slaying were accused of killing Attia.
Assistant State's Attorney Christina Ferris said another youth buried the sawed-off shotgun used to kill Attia in his grandmother's yard, where police dug it up.
The plea agreement removes the possibility of consecutive terms of life in prison without parole for Bunner, who was 17 at the time of the crimes. Instead, he will receive two concurrent life terms for two first-degree murders with the possibility for parole.
Bunner also pleaded guilty to the use of a handgun in a crime, which carries a sentence of between five and 20 years. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are expected to argue over that when Bunner is sentenced April 16.
Sheriff's Office Lt. Col. Rick Tabor later said his department, which provides courthouse security, has taken steps so that remarks to a deputy are promptly reported.