MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Memphis gun dealer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the killing of a code enforcement officer and prosecutors revealed in the same hearing he had confessed to bludgeoning a Baltimore doctor to death in a separate slaying.

Dale Mardis was sentenced Tuesday after earlier pleading guilty to fatally shooting code inspector Mickey Wright in 2001 in what the government called a racially-motivated hate crime. Mardis is white and Wright was black.

Prosecutor Steve Parker made a stunning revelation when he said Mardis admitted last week to killing Dr. Henry Ackerman in June 1998 in Memphis. Prosecutors said Ackerman came to Memphis to purchase a car and had gone to visit Mardis at his business. The men got into an argument over a debt and Mardis beat Ackerman to death with a hammer.

Prosecutors said Mardis disposed of Ackerman’s body by burning it in a 55-gallon drum in Marshall County, Miss.

Mardis had already pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of Wright by killing him and disposing of his body. The killing of Ackerman, who was white, does not appear to be racially motivated.

Wright was last seen April 17, 2001, at an auto sales and repair business whose owners leased property from Mardis. The two men had a history of conflicts. A statement read by Mardis’ attorney after his plea in state court said Wright’s body was burned and the remains were put into junked cars that were later crushed.

Parker said Mardis agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in the doctor’s slaying in both federal and state court.

Ackerman’s daughter has been contacted by prosecutors in Memphis about the guilty plea.

Wright’s widow, Frances Wright, said she was grateful to prosecutors for continuing to pursue the case over 10 years.

“Mickey would be so happy to know that we, his family, that we did not finish pursuing one of Satan’s disciples,” she said in a statement in court.

Mardis didn’t speak at the hearing, but U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald said that Mardis showed an indifference to human life and the pain and suffering of others.

She said the crimes “involved a course of conduct by this defendant that was almost macabre.”

“This manifests almost an absence of humanity,” Donald said.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Mardis be held in a federal medical facility. Mardis was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair and said he takes medicine for high blood pressure.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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