Convicted murderer receives reprieve from Supreme Court

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The Duke murders in Pelham in 1997 have been the focus of much discussion since the Supreme Court’s ruling last week.

The murders were featured on Scarborough Country on MSNBC last Tuesday night, in fact.

Another panel on the subject featured New York law school professor Robert Blecker, a nationally known death penalty proponent.

Blecker referred to Duke during the panel.

&uot;Take Mark Anthony Duke,&uot; he said. &uot;He’s evil. He’s vicious. He deserves to die. I’m certain of that.&uot;

On Sunday, March 23, 1997, just a week before Easter, Duke asked his father to borrow his truck.

When his father told him no, Duke vowed to &uot;see him in hell.&uot;

That night, he and three friends including Michael Brandon Samra, 19 at the time, entered his father’s home at 2327 Chandawood Drive in Chandalar subdivision and began a killing rampage the likes of which had hardly been seen in Shelby County prior that.

First, Duke shot his father, Randy Gerald Duke, 39, a plumber. Then Samra shot his father’s fiancee Dedra Mims Hunt, 29.

The shot didn’t kill her, however, and she raced up the stairs to the bathroom with her two daughters, Chelsea, 7, and Chelisa, 6.

Duke kicked in the bathroom door where she was hiding with one of the girls and shot her between the eyes. He grabbed Chelisa from the shower where she was hiding and slit her throat.

Determined to leave no witnesses, Samra and Duke went into a bedroom where Chelsea was hiding under the bed. Samra pulled her out and slit her throat while Duke held her down.

Later that day, Duke called the police reporting something awry at his father’s home; but it wasn’t long before the evidence showed police he had been the murderer.

Duke was found guilty of capital murder and was sentenced to death as was Samra, who is now on death row at William E. Donaldson Prison.

The other two boys, Michael LaFayette Ellison, 16, of Pelham and David Layne Collums, 17, of Helena were charged in the crime as well. Ellison and Collums were denied parole last year