JACKSON, Miss. - Darian "Drake" Pierce and Ricky Wedgeworth were serving long prison sentences when authorities say they escaped from a Louisiana police compound and killed a man during a crime spree through four states.
Almost two years later, they are expected to stand before a federal judge in Mississippi on Monday and plead guilty to committing a string of crimes while on the loose for 10 days in March 2011. This time, they could be sentenced to life.
Pierce and Wedgeworth were inmate workers - or trusties - with jobs as groundskeepers at the State Police compound in Baton Rouge on March 4, 2011, when they stole a van and drove away, authorities say.
A few days later, David Cupps disappeared from a hotel in Vicksburg, Miss. The 53-year-old from Sunbury, Ohio, was in Mississippi to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear plant south of Vicksburg. Authorities say he was abducted for his rental car, a red Buick Enclave. Cupps' body was found at a hotel in Bessemer, Ala. He had been beaten and strangled.
A Tennessee officer pulled the Buick over March 8, 2011, but the inmates ran. They tied up a Madison County, Tenn., parks worker a few days later and stole a truck with markings for the county's parks department, authorities say.
Police in Olive Branch, Miss., spotted the men March 14, 2011, and pursued them back into Tennessee, where the inmates were arrested after wrecking in Memphis, authorities say.
Federal court records say Pierce fought with police when he was captured and was hospitalized as a precaution. That's where he told a nurse that he and Wedgeworth "killed a man while taking his car," though he said they didn't mean to kill him, prosecutors said in a court filing.
The men are charged with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking, conspiracy and transporting a stolen vehicle.
A change of plea hearing is scheduled for both men Monday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss. Court filings did not say to which charges they would plead guilty.
Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
At the time of the escape, Wedgeworth was in prison 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.
Authorities have said Wedgeworth is from Memphis, Tenn. Pierce is from Bogalusa.
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