JACKSON, Miss. — Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty for two inmates charged with killing an Ohio businessman in Mississippi after they escaped from a prison work program in Louisiana.
Sheila Wilbanks, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Jackson, Miss., said the Justice Department decided against seeking the death penalty for Ricky Wedgeworth and Darian "Drake" Pierce. She had no other comment.
Wedgeworth and Pierce are charged with kidnapping David Cupps from a hotel in Vicksburg, Miss., after escaping from the Louisiana State Police compound in Baton Rouge on March 4, 2011.
Investigators said Cupps, a 53-year-old man from Sunbury, Ohio, was attacked for his rental car and beaten and strangled. His body was dumped in Bessemer, Ala. Cupps was in Mississippi to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant south of Vicksburg.
The inmates were caught March 14, 2011, after crashing a pickup truck in Memphis, Tenn. Police said that before their capture, the men tied up a county park worker and stole a government parks department truck from Madison County, Tenn.
Wedgeworth and Pierce were indicted on multiple charges in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss. They could have faced the death penalty for two counts — kidnapping resulting in death and carjacking resulting in death. They're also charged with conspiracy and transporting a stolen vehicle. They have pleaded not guilty.
Wedgeworth and Pierce were serving long prison sentences when they escaped from the Louisiana facility. Wedgeworth was serving time for armed robbery and was set to be released in 2023. Pierce was locked up for attempted second-degree murder and was scheduled for release in 2024.
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety has said it was using about 160 inmate workers, known as trusties, for various jobs at the State Police compound when Wedgeworth and Pierce escaped. They had been working as groundskeepers there and were able to get keys to a van and drive off, authorities said.
Authorities have said Wedgeworth is from Memphis, Tenn. Pierce is from of Bogalusa, La.
Their trial is scheduled to take place in November in Natchez, Miss.