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June 16, 1999
Dunkin' Donut Murder Trial Continues
A P Kamath
A teenager, who participated in a robbery that led to the killing of two Indian immigrants and wounding of the third, is testifying for the prosecution in a case that made headlines for several days in local newspapers last October.
The testimony of Alicia N Holloway, 17, could help convict her former friend and crime-mate Trone Tyrone Ashford, 26. If found guilty, he faces the death sentence. Ashford, who had initially denied his role in the slaying, admitted his guilt, police say, after many hours of questioning. The murder weapon was found in his house, police add.
Ashford's attorney, Michael S Blumenthal, suggested in his opening statement that John Lemon Epps IV, one of Ashford's friends, was the gunman who killed the two men. Blumenthal also asked the jurors to be wary of the police account, noting that they had questioned Ashford for over 13 hours, suggesting that Ashford had buckled under pressure.
The men, Kanu Patel, 28, and Mukesh Patel, 35, were killed when they were shot at point-blank range after they were forced to lie on the floor of a back room of the Dunkin' Donut shop. Ashvin Patel, 44, who was shot in the abdomen and arm, was thought to have died; he was rescued by firefighters who arrived to battle the blaze.
The three men each made less than $ 50 a day at the Dunkin' Donuts shop, and the robbery itself yielded less than $ 100.
Prosecutors believe that Ashford was the leader in the crime and was the sole killer while Epps poured gasoline set the shop ablaze and left the victims for dead. Holloway, who pleaded guilty early this month to two counts of felony murder, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. She testified that that Ashford drove to the shop, took the shotgun from the trunk, loaded it and handed it to Epps. Inside the shop, Ashford jumped over the counter and took the gun from Epps, she said.
She also testified that while she and Epps tried to take the money from the cash register, Ashford pushed the three men into a back room. Moments later, she heard the gun fire. She also testified that Ashford told her that he had killed the men. Kevin Shiplett, 20, who was in the getaway car and did not participate in the robbery or slaying, had also told the jury about Ashford's statement on shooting the three men. According to Shiplett, who said he was cooperating with the police to salvage his conscience, Ashford, Epps and Holloway were on the way to Washington DC to buy cocaine.
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