JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two Louisiana inmates face life sentences next week in the kidnapping death of an Ohio businessman abducted from a hotel in Mississippi during a 2011 crime spree.
Darian Pierce and Ricky Wedgeworth were inmate workers, or trusties, with jobs as groundskeepers at the Louisiana State Police compound in Baton Rouge when they stole a van and drove away March 4, 2011, authorities say.
A few days later, David Cupps, 53, disappeared from a hotel in Vicksburg, Miss., where he was staying while in town to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear plant, south of the city.
Authorities say the Sunbury, Ohio, man was abducted for his rental car, a red Buick Enclave. His body was found at a hotel in Bessemer, Ala. He had been beaten and strangled. The men pleaded guilty to kidnapping resulting in death in February.
Pierce’s attorney, Joe Hollomon, said his client is remorseful about Cupps’ death and is likely to speak to the court at sentencing. Hollomon said both men are likely to be sentenced to life in prison.
“He lost his composure and started crying during one of the early interviews that he gave. I think he is very remorseful about what happened to Mr. Cupps,” Hollomon said.
Wedgeworth’s attorney had no immediate comment.
After dumping Cupps’ body in Bessemer, authorities say, the two inmates drove to Georgia, then to Tennessee.
A Tennessee officer pulled the Buick over March 8, 2011, but the inmates ran. A few days later, they tied up a Madison County, Tenn., parks worker 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 they crashed the vehicle and were arrested in Memphis, authorities say.
Federal court records say Pierce fought with police when he was captured and was hospitalized as a precaution.
Prosecutors say he told a nurse that he and Wedgeworth didn’t mean to kill Cupps. Authorities said he also gave sworn statements to investigators.
“He expressed remorse and resignation as he gave a detailed confession to the crimes of prison escape, carjacking, kidnaping, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and murder,” the government said in a court filing.
When the men pleaded guilty, Cupps’ daughters — Valerie Click, Amy Blair, April Gruber and Heather Ross — released a statement that says the family “is still trying to come to terms with our loss.”
“He was such a wonderful man, an integral part of this family, and so very loved. Words cannot express how much we miss him and wish he was still here with us now,” the statement said.
At the time of the escape, 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.
Authorities have said Wedgeworth is from Memphis, Tenn. Pierce is from Bogalusa, La.