Tkeisha Gilmer, 18, of Texas City, Texas, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Dawn Brooks and her young son and daughter, and the children's aunt, Mwasiti Sikyala. Their bodies were found Aug. 6 in a makeshift, trash-filled apartment above a garage. Darrell Bellard, 43, of Dickinson, Texas, faces the same murder charges in the case.
Police have said both Gilmer and Bellard admitted to committing the killings.
Prosecutor Joseph C. Ruddy called Cpl. Michael Delaney to testify during a preliminary hearing Friday, before Judge John P. Morrissey in Prince George's County court. Delaney said he interviewed Gilmer after the bodies were found and she told him that she and Bellard, whom she identified as her boyfriend, drove from Texas around Aug. 2 to sell marijuana. She said they sold the drugs throughout Maryland and had kept some of the drugs at the garage apartment in Lanham.
Authorities said Bellard and Brooks were related through marriage with Brooks' sister married to Bellard's brother.
At one point, Bellard and Gilmer went out with Brooks and her children, Delaney said. When they returned to the apartment Sikyala told them that someone had stolen the marijuana that was left at the home. Gilmer told police that Bellard got upset and didn't believe Sikyala, and started to look for the drugs. Then Bellard and Gilmer went out to their truck and got two guns and went back into the apartment, and carried out the slayings, Delaney said.
"She put herself there," Delaney said of Gilmer's statements.
Gilmer told police that Bellard did the shooting.
Officials say police found Bellard at the scene when they arrived after another man on the property called 911.
Delaney said Bellard had taken some of the money he made from the marijuana sales to his brother's house in Maryland. Police interviewed Bellard's brother and wife, and learned of the family connection.
The petite Gilmer and stocky Bellard were both handcuffed and in jumpsuits as they sat with her attorneys and listened to the investigator's testimony.
Defense attorneys said there was no physical evidence nor any other witness linking their clients to the crimes.
Gilmer's attorney questioned whether her statements were voluntary and asked if police were informed that she was bipolar and schizophrenic and had other mental health issues. Delaney said he was not told about that.
The defense attorneys also raised concerns about video recording devices that weren't working during parts of the police interviews. Authorities said they have some partial recordings of the statements.
Several family members, including one woman who wore a T-shirt with Brooks' name and her children's names, sat in the courtroom and held each other as the victims' names were read. As some cried out loud, the judge said he understood it was emotional but asked them to compose themselves.
Morrissey found probable cause in both cases, and ordered that Bellard and Gilmer continue to be held without bond.
After the hearing, county State's Attorney Glenn Ivey said the investigation is continuing and prosecutors will review the evidence as they determine whether to pursue the death penalty. The cases are eligible for the death penalty, but the law also requires either a videotaped confession, DNA that ties the suspect to the crime, or a videotape of the crime itself.
"I'm confident with the way things are proceeding," he said.