DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Two prison inmates charged with a Mississippi murder after breaking out of jail will not face the death penalty.
Darian "Drake" Pierce and Ricky Wedgeworth escaped a prison work program in Louisiana last March. While on the run, investigators say the two stole a rental car in Mississippi, murdering the driver.
Investigators say the escapees kidnapped, beat and strangled 53-year-old David Cupps, an Ohio businessman, killing him in Mississippi and dumping his body in Alabama.
The inmates were on the run for about two weeks, on a crime spree through four states. With so many jurisdictions involved, the U.S. Department of Justice took over the case.
"The U. S. Attorney's Office is much better suited to prosecute it," says Ricky Smith, Warren County district attorney.
Wedgeworth and Pierce are charged with kidnapping and carjacking resulting in death. The two could have faced the death penalty, but federal prosecutors just decided against it.
Instead the two inmates, who were already serving lengthy prison sentences for other crimes, will face life in prison.
"They are prosecuting for the death of the victim and taking of the vehicle," Smith says.
The two were eventually captured when a high speed chase that started in Mississippi ended in Memphis. Dash cam video caught it all.
Smith turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney's office. "I am not aware of why the U.S. Attorney's Office made the decision not to pursue the death penalty. It's a recent decision that they made."
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office says it was the U.S. Justice Department that made the call. ABC 24's calls to them haven't been returned.
Both inmates pleaded not guilty. Their trial starts this November in Natchez, Mississippi.