(AP) - A federal judge has scheduled a November trial for two men charged with kidnapping and killing an Ohio businessman in Mississippi after escaping from an inmate work program at a Louisiana police compound.
Ricky Wedgeworth and Darian "Drake" Pierce could face the death penalty if convicted of kidnapping resulting in death. They're also charged with carjacking, conspiracy and transporting a stolen vehicle. They were indicted in September and pleaded not guilty the next month in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss.
U.S. Magistrate Linda R. Anderson in Jackson set their trial date in a court order Thursday. The trial is scheduled to take place in Natchez, Miss.
Wedgeworth's attorney, George Lucas, had no comment on the case. Pierce's lawyer, Aafram Sellers, didn't immediately respond to a message.
Authorities say the inmates kidnapped 53-year-old David Cupps of Sunbury, Ohio, from a Vicksburg, Miss., hotel after escaping from a Louisiana State Police compound in Baton Rouge on March 4. Investigators said Cupps was beaten and strangled and his body dumped in Bessemer, Ala.
The inmates were captured March 14 in Memphis, Tenn.
Authorities have said Cupps was in Mississippi to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant south of Vicksburg at the time Wedgeworth and Pierce attacked him for his rental car.
The men pleaded not guilty during a hearing in October. Wedgeworth, who had a short hair and a teardrop tattoo on his right cheek, told the judge he has a 10th grade education and once worked as a Merchant Marine.
Peirce, who wore a goatee and has a tattoo on the back of his neck, said he completed 30 hours of college and once had construction jobs working with iron and asphalt. He told the judge he was treated for mental problems as a young teenager, but didn't elaborate.
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety 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.
Wedgeworth was serving time for armed robbery, and Pierce for attempted second-degree murder. Before they escaped, Wedgeworth was set to be released in 2023 and Pierce in 2024.
Authorities said the men were caught after crashing a pickup truck in Memphis. Police said that before their capture, the men tied up a county park worker in Jackson, Tenn., and stole a government truck with markings for the Madison County, Tenn., parks department.
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