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Guilty Plea in Baltimore Coed Slaying

November 14, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A man pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of first-degree murder, admitting he killed a Johns Hopkins University student during a burglary.

The crime shook the prestigious university, just nine months after another student was murdered, and prompted the school to speed up plans to increase campus security with more patrols and cameras.

Donta M. Allen, 28, whose trial had been set to begin Tuesday, admitted that he killed Linda Trinh, 21, in her apartment near the university’s main campus in Baltimore in January 2005.

Prosecutor Matthew Fraling initially planned to seek a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, but in exchange for his plea Allen will get a simple life term.

Under that sentence, if he is extremely well-behaved in prison he could begin what would be a lengthy parole hearing process after serving more than 11 years, said Thomas Pennewell, a program manager for hearings at the Maryland Parole Commission.

Warren Brown, Allen’s attorney, said he encouraged Allen to accept the plea deal because he believed his client ``would have been found guilty easily.″

Allen gave an incriminating statement to police, saying he intended to burglarize Trinh’s apartment while she wasn’t home. When he found her in the apartment, the two fought when she tried to call police. He told police he had burglarized the apartment once before.

Police also had DNA evidence, from tissue found under Trinh’s fingernails, that linked him to the crime.

Allen’s sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 8.

Efforts to beef up campus security at Johns Hopkins began after another student, Christopher Elser, was killed in April 2004.

Elser was stabbed in what police have described as a random act of violence by an intruder inside an apartment house rented to members of his fraternity. That crime occurred about six blocks from Trinh’s apartment. No one has been arrested in the case.