ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a Maryland man for his alleged role in a 2008 home robbery in the northern Virginia suburbs that led to the stabbing deaths of three men, authorities said Wednesday.
The indictment marks the first criminal charges in a chilling case that went unsolved for years.
Delante T. Cook, 34, of New Carrollton, Md., was arrested Monday at a Whole Foods grocery store in Washington where he worked. He made an initial appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. He is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday.
Lana Manitta, appointed Wednesday afternoon to represent Cook, declined comment.
Prosecutors allege that Cook and others staked out the Springfield home of brothers Ryan and Terence Strope in November 2008, planning to rob the Stropes, who were marijuana dealers.
After a few days of surveillance, Cook and his accomplices on Nov. 19 allegedly dressed up as police and forced their way into the home, armed with knives, prosecutors say. The Strope brothers were stabbed to death, as was their friend, Andres Yelicie, who was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Neil MacBride, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The indictment does not specify who committed the stabbings, and Cook is not charged with murder. Instead, he is charged with two counts of conspiracy and attempted robbery that carry a potential sentence of up to 40 years.
At a news conference Wednesday, MacBride declined to speculate on whether murder charges will be filed but said the investigation is ongoing. He emphasized that the robbery charges, brought under the Hobbs Act, are serious charges that carry a potentially significant prison term.
“We’re going to take this case one step at a time,” MacBride said.
A second person who allegedly helped Cook in the attack, Jelani Slay, was killed in March 2009 during an attempt to rob an off-duty D.C. police officer. The indictment states that other individuals, both known and unknown to the grand jury, also participated in the robbery.
Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer said the fact that the attackers masqueraded as police officers was a particularly disturbing aspect of the case.
“I don’t condone, certainly, the marijuana dealing that may have led to (the Stropes’) targeting, but they did not deserve to die,” Rohrer said.
Authorities declined to reveal what led to the break in the case, except to say that new evidence was recently developed.
Fairfax County police, MacBride said, did “a terrific job running down leads, connecting the dots and cracking this case.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)