Suspect charged in murder of Sabina Rose
PHILADELPHIA - June 16, 2010 (WPVI) -- The 18-year-old man in custody for the murder of Sabina Rose O'Donnell has been formally charged in the crime. Police say he simply wanted to steal her bike, and she was brutally killed in the confrontation that followed.
Late Wednesday, Sabina Rose O'Donnell's parents told Action News that while they are deeply relieved about the arrest, they are not yet ready to make a public statement as they gather their thoughts.
Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark said during a news conference Wednesday morning that Donte Johnson, 18, of the 900 block of N. 11th Street in Philadelphia, has been arrested for the June 2nd murder of Sabina Rose O'Donnell.
Sources tell Action News that Johnson has confessed to the crime. Police have charged him with murder, rape and related offenses.
Captain Clark said this heinous crime was a random attack. According to police, Johnson wanted to take Sabina's bike but, when she screamed and resisted, it escalated into a much more savage crime.
Investigators had said Sabina had borrowed that bike to ride home after a night out with friends.
Police say it appears Johnson had been cruising through the neighborhood, looking for victims to rob.
"He was a predator that night," Capt. Clark said. "We see on the video he follows another female, but he doesn't catch up to her. At some point he catches up with Sabina and the murder takes place."
Captain Clark said the break in the case came on June 11th, just one day after surveillance video of a person of interest was released. A tip caller indicated that the male featured in surveillance video released by police was a man she knew only as "Donte."
Officers with the homicide unit had prior contact with this "Donte," and identified him as Donte Johnson.
On one occasion after that tip call officers attempted to stop Johnson and arrest him, but he got away.
On Tuesday, police say Johnson's mother contacted investigators and arranged to meet to turn her son into police. At about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday Donte Johnson, along with members of his family, turned himself in to Officer Joseph Goodwin and his partner Matthew McCarthy. He was taken into custody and questioned overnight.
"If it wasn't for the tip caller we may not have came to this as soon as we did," Officer Goodwin said. "So she deserves all the credit."
It is now up to the D.A. if prosecutors will go for the death penalty in this case.
Meanwhile, neighbors say the family of Johson is already being tormented by those seeking street justice. Residents say Donte's mother left their 11th Street house after someone threw a brick at the home and yelled obscenities.
"They said you're a killer, you're a rapist and threw a brick at the house," neighbor Carlton Sauders said.
One neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said she was not surprised at Johnson's arrest. She says she cursed at him when she mentioned he looked like the suspect in the surveillance video.
"I kind of felt like he was going down that road. If it hadn't been that it would have been something else," she said.
O'Donnell, 20, was found dead on Wednesday, June 2nd in a lot next to the apartment building where she lived with her stepfather in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, near the border of Northern Liberties.
Police say O'Donnell died of strangulation and was sexually assaulted. Her body was found nude with a bra wrapped around her neck. Police are testing DNA samples found on her body. They believe those samples will match those from Johnson.
In the surveillance video released by police,a young man could be seen riding a bike. The grainy video, which you can watch above or click here, was shown to the media on Thursday afternoon.
The suspect, who police say is Johnson, is seen wearing a white tank top and is seen riding a bicycle through the area where O'Donnell was attacked. He passes by the camera several times but, at one point, a person who resembles O'Donnell rides a bicycle by and the man stops his bike, turns around, and follows her.
"When you see her ride by on the bike and then you see this individual turn around and go after her. That is the final minutes before this crime takes place," Clark said.
Police say the white tank top Johnson was wearing matches the one found at the crime scene.
pennsylvania, philadelphia, beating, sex assault, homicide, local/state
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