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Tuesday, April 11, 2017 1:00 am

Murder accomplice gets 20 years

Judge: Defendant has 'no respect for the laws'

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

Darrell McDaniel was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison for robbery for his role in a holdup gone bad on East Lewis Street that left three people dead last year.

When Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck imposed the sentence, McDaniel, 19, who had pleaded guilty, took on an angry glare, shook his head and stared at his attorney.

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, three counts of murder and one count of using a gun in the commission of a crime were dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to robbery.

Defense attorney Quentin Ellis told the court that during the course of the robbery, McDaniel's gun went off accidentally. “He had no design to do this,” Ellis said.

Ellis, who asked that McDaniel be sentenced to six years, said serious criminals usually show an escalation of criminal behavior, but McDaniel's only serious offense was possession of a handgun without a license.

The prosecution, though, asked for a 20-year sentence and noted that as a juvenile McDaniel was charged with truancy and ordered into substance abuse treatment and home detention. He escaped from home detention and was convicted of possession of a handgun without a license and physically resisting police. He was sentenced to boys school.

“There were a lot of attempts at rehabilitation and he failed to cooperate,” Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Steinberg said. He then became an adult shortly before the killings.

“Ultimately, three people died – the result of his actions,” Steinberg said. “He started a chain of events that had a horrific outcome.”

Asked if he had any statement, McDaniel said he was under the influence of Xanax that day, and apologized to the family.

Before handing down the sentence, Surbeck said McDaniel had “absolutely no respect for the laws of the city, state or country.” The judge said several references were made Monday calling the three murders as an unfortunate incident or a mistake.

“No, this was a criminal act resulting in murder,” Surbeck said. You can't mitigate something that ends in death, he said.

Outside the courtroom shortly after the sentencing, McDaniel's mother seemed shocked by the sentence and cried. Later Kamal Kuku, the father of Adam Mekki, one of the victims, hugged McDaniel's mother, and she also hugged Mekki's mother as both cried.

Kuku said he was satisfied with the sentence, but he said that McDaniel was the original guy to open fire during the robbery, even though he says it was an accident, and said the three victims might not have died if not for him.

“He's dangerous,” he said of McDaniel.

In the robbery, which took place Feb. 24, 2016, at 808 E. Lewis St., Mekki, Muhannad Tairab and Mohamedtaha Omar were all shot several times in the head.

Artavius Richards, 20, who fired 15 shots after McDaniel fired his gun once, was convicted of three counts of murder earlier this year and sentenced to 190 years in prison.

fgray@jg.net