ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Maryland man was sentenced to life in prison Friday for his role a 2008 triple slaying that has been called one of the most vicious attacks in the region in recent times, one that went unsolved for more than two years.
The Nov. 19, 2008, stabbings of brothers Ryan and Terence Strope and a friend, Andres Yelicie, at the Stropes’ home in suburban Springfield remained a mystery until May 2011, when police arrested Delante Cook, 35, of New Carrollton, Md., at a Whole Foods grocery store where he worked.
Cook pleaded guilty to the crime, admitting that he and others had staked out the Stropes’ home for two days, believing the brothers were drug dealers who would have a large amount of cash.
Police have said the Stropes were selling marijuana, while Yelicie was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The attackers dressed as police officers for the robbery, and officials said the stabbings were especially brutal.
In some ways, Friday’s sentencing hearing was a formality because a plea deal called for an automatic life sentence. But the hearing give the Strope and Yelicie families an opportunity to describe the devastation they endured.
The Stropes’ sister, Lisa-Marie, recalled identifying her older brother’s body at a hospital and then witnessing the final, frantic efforts of doctors to save her younger brother as she pleaded for God to spare his life.
“I needed one of them to survive. … I wouldn’t wish this feeling on my own worst enemy, even the one sitting in this room,” she said, standing just a few feet from Cook.
The Stropes’ father, Chris Strope, a former police officer, urged Cook to cooperate with police to find the other attackers.
Only one other attacker has been identified: Jelani Slay, who was killed in 2009 attempting to rob an off-duty police officer. Authorities say the investigation is ongoing, and Cook is required to cooperate with the investigation as part of his plea deal.
“You will spend the rest of your life in prison,” Chris Strope said, looking directly at Cook. “It is my hope that each and every day you relive this crime and realize that you had a choice, and that you made a very bad one.
Yelicie’s father, Fedor Yelicie, said Andres “wasn’t perfect, but he had a great, big heart and a bright future ahead.”
Cook apologized to the families and admitted the crime was “a senseless act that should never have happened. I have committed a crime and I deserve to be punished.”
In court papers, Cook’s attorney, Lana Manitta, acknowledged Cook was legally culpable. But, Manitta wrote, Cook did not carry a weapon, was not in the home at the time of the stabbings and never intended for anyone to get hurt, although he overlooked Slay’s penchant for violence in committing crimes.
U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said the attackers “participated in an act of almost unimaginable violence — the malicious and fatal stabbing of three men in cold blood. They showed no mercy and no regard for the lives they took.”
The convictions in federal court were on robbery and firearms charges, not murder, though Cook acknowledged his role in the killings as part of the plea.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)