Man sentenced to life for killing student

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man who pleaded guilty to murdering a Johns Hopkins University student during a burglary was sentenced to life in prison Monday, a punishment he said he deserved.

The crime shocked the prestigious university, where another student had been murdered nine months earlier, and led university officials to accelerate plans to improve security.

Donta M. Allen, who worked in restaurants near the university, pleaded guilty in November to first-degree murder in the strangulation death of Linda Trinh, 21. Allen, 28, killed Trinh in January 2005 in her off-campus apartment across the street from the university’s main campus, which is set near troubled neighborhoods.

Allen told Judge Roger Brown he was “very remorseful” and that he deserved the life sentence.

“I’m sorry for what I took away from you,” he said to the victim’s family.

Prosecutor Matthew Fraling, however, described the apology as “too little, too late,” pointing out that Allen preyed on Alpha Phi sorority sisters, repeatedly stealing from them. Allen dated one of Trinh’s sorority sisters and tended to hang around them, even though he was not a student.

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 got into an argument, which became violent when she tried to call police. He also told police he had burglarized the apartment once before.

Police had DNA evidence linking Allen to the crime from tissue found under Trinh’s fingernails.

Trinh was found face-down in her bathtub in about two inches of water. She had been asphyxiated by strangulation. She had contusions on her neck and bruises on her arms and legs.

The murder prompted Johns Hopkins to speed up plans to increase security on campus with increased patrols and additional cameras.

The effort to improve security began after the other student, Chris Elser, was killed in April 2004. He was stabbed in what police have described as a random act of violence by an intruder in an apartment about six blocks from Trinh’s apartment. No one has been arrested in the Elser case.