ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's highest court has rejected an appeal from a man serving life without the possibility of parole for fatally shooting four people, including two toddlers.

A Prince George's County jury convicted Darrell Lynn Bellard of Dickinson, Texas, in 2014 of first-degree murder in the 2010 killings.

On appeal, Bellard argued that a jury should have decided whether to sentence him to life or life without parole.

The Maryland Court of Appeals rejected Bellard's petition late last week, saying that in abolishing the death penalty, lawmakers did not give murder defendants the right to choose to be sentenced by a jury.

Prosecutors said Bellard killed Dawn Brooks, her two children and their aunt, Mwasiti Sikyala, because he believed the women were responsible for the disappearance of about 60 pounds of marijuana.


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