The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 5, 2013

Court filing: Inmates to plead guilty in abduction

— JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two inmates who escaped from custody in Louisiana plan to plead guilty in a case that includes charges of abducting and killing an Ohio businessman in Mississippi, a court filing said.

Authorities say Darian "Drake" Pierce and Ricky Wedgeworth escaped from the Louisiana State Police compound in Baton Rouge on March 4, 2011, and kidnapped David Cupps from a hotel in Vicksburg, Miss.

Cupps' beaten and strangled body was found in Bessemer, Ala.

Pierce and Wedgeworth were caught on March 14, 2011, after crashing a truck in Memphis, Tenn. Police say they had tied up a county worker and stolen a truck in Madison County, Tenn.

The inmates are charged with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking, conspiracy and transporting stolen vehicles. The court filing Monday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., did not say to which charges they would plead guilty.

The change of plea hearing is scheduled to take place in Jackson on Monday, the same day the men's trial was to begin. They had previously pleaded not guilty.

Wedgeworth's lawyer had no comment when contacted Tuesday.

Pierce's attorney did not immediately respond to a message.

Recent court filings said Pierce acknowledged participating in the crimes during conversations with a nurse and later with investigators from the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Pierce was hospitalized as a precaution after fighting with the officers who arrested him and told the nurse that he and Wedgeworth "escaped from prison and killed a man while taking his car," prosecutors said in a court filing last week.

"He said they dumped the victim's body in Alabama and that he did not mean to kill the man," the filing said.

Cupps, a 53-year-old man from Sunbury, Ohio, was attacked for his rental car, authorities say. He was in Mississippi to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant south of Vicksburg.

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