A Maryland judge on Monday ordered a Texas man and woman accused of slaying two women and two children held without bond.
They each face four counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of Dawn Yvette Brooks, 38; her two children, Shayla Shante Sikyala, 3; Shakur Sylvester Sikyala, 4; and the children's aunt, Mwasiti Sikyala, 41. Their bodies were found Friday in a makeshift apartment above a detached garage. The garage and main house on the property had no running water and were in deplorable conditions, police said.
Bellard and Gilmer apparently were connected to Brooks and Mwasiti Sikyala through the sale of marijuana.
Judge Thomas J. Love explained to the pair that each murder count carries the death penalty.
Love also referred them to the public defender service, and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Sept. 3.
According to charging documents, both Bellard and Gilmer admitted to police that they committed the slayings.
A witness called authorities early Friday after finding one of the women laying in a pool of blood, police said.
Officers found one woman, shot in her upper body, on the floor near the entrance of a bedroom. They discovered the other woman and the two children, all with gunshot wounds to their upper bodies, lying on a bed inside the bedroom, charging documents said.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey said the number of people killed makes the case eligible for the death penalty. But Ivey said he needs to wait until the investigation wraps up, and consult with the victims' families before deciding on whether to pursue the death penalty.
Ivey said the judge decided to keep Bellard and Gilmer in custody without bond because Love concluded they were a flight risk and because they pose a danger to the community. He said he expects a trial date to be set within the next few days.
"I was pretty astonished," Ivey said of home's conditions. He said the case has shocked and stunned the working-class neighborhood where the bodies were found. "It certainly does grab and pull at the heartstrings."
He said he didn't believe the suspects were related to the victims. He wouldn't say whether the case was drug-related, but said many drug cases in the county involve connections to other parts of the country and even places outside the country.
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