Daniels sentenced for role in Coleman murder
Dakerie Daniels, one of three people convicted in the January 24, 2016 murder of Terrance Terrell Coleman near Boydton, will spend the next 45 years in prison for her role in the crime. Daniels was convicted in March with final sentencing delayed pending the return of a pre-sentence report ordered for May 31. On Thursday, Judge Leslie Osborn handed down a total sentence of 125 years on the various charges against her but the court suspended all but 45 years in prison. Her earliest chance of release would be a geriatric release, which could be granted when she is 60 years old.
Defense attorney Charles Cosby, Jr. brought forth a long list of character witnesses ranging from mother, grandparents, friends and other family members who remembered Daniels as a kind and caring, compassionate and religious young woman.
Desiree Hanford told the court that she had known Daniels since she was a small child. Growing up, said Hanford, Daniels had expressed a desire to help others and had proven herself reliable in taking care of people during her training as a nurse’s aide. She added that if and when Daniels is released, she would be happy to provide her a home living with her and her family.
On cross examination, Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Nash asked Hanford if she knew the charges against Daniels. Nash asked if she was aware of the fact that she made fun of the trigger man for “gagging” after shooting Coleman and said she could have done it with no problem and if she would be surprised to learn that Coleman had been the first one of the accused to shoot a 12 week old puppy.
Hanford replied that all of those things surprised her but added that “maybe she was threatened or felt threatened.”
Nash asked if she would be surprised to learn that Daniels had been the one to describe the layout of the Coleman home, where to find things of value and warned them about the dog. He then asked if having heard everything that came to light in the trial, would she still be willing to give this woman a home?
“Absolutely,” replied Hanford.
Elizabeth Sanya, another character witness, told the court that she had met Daniels and her family when they moved to Bullock when Daniels was a child. The two families became friends, she said, and Daniels had been like a daughter to her. Calling her “one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest people I know,” Sanya said that she and Daniels were not seeing as much of each other as they had been when both families had been attending the House of Prayer but they were still in contact. She said that she had been aware than an ex-boyfriend of Daniels had been murdered but was not aware that she had any involvement in the incident.
Nash asked Sanya some of the same questions he had asked Hanford. “I object,” said Sanya. Sanya said she did not believe Daniels had murdered anyone. Regarding the incriminating things she said to the undercover informant, Sanya said that Daniels had explained that she had been afraid that if Lester thought she was not with him, he would have killed her. She also said that Daniels had told her about her fear of Lester. She had, she said, been acting and putting up a front.
Also testifying were Daniels’ mother, grandmother and grandfather. Each of them testified that they had never seen the girl the Commonwealth had depicted. All of them also said that they had been shocked and surprised at the allegations against her because this was not reflective of the girl they knew.
Cosby pointed out that many more of her family members and friends were there and all were prepared to testify on her behalf.
Nash said that he had one more piece of evidence he wished to bring forth and asked to play the surveillance video taken with the informant.
Cosby objected, pointing out that the recording had been played during the trial. “There’s no need to hear it over again.”
Judge Osborn allowed the video recording to be played an appeared to pay rapt attention.
Nash told the court that Coleman had been 26 years old and was laying in his bed on a snowy day. The beloved family dog, Major, asleep at the foot of the bed when the two assailants broke into his home. Hickman and Lester, said Nash, held Coleman at gunpoint while they ransacked the home and killed the dog. “Probably the last memory he had was of watching them kill his dog and then they killed him, because of what this woman set up,” said Nash.
“She took them down there. She told them the layout of the home and where the money would be. She warned them about the dog. And this act of her being under duress is pure and utter fabrication,” said Nash.
“She knew what was going on because she set this whole thing in motion,” said Nash. “She wasn’t with the wrong people, she was the wrong people. It was premeditated, no doubt,” said Nash, “She destroyed evidence that went back to her house. On tape she said you can’t go to jail if you don’t have evidence.”
Nash spoke of the 12 week old puppy that was killed because someone might recognize the animal and tie her to the case.
“That isn’t a person who has an ounce of caring for anything. Much less an animal,” said Nash.
Nash concluded by saying Daniels was just as guilty as the trigger man and deserved the same sentence. He asked for a sentence of 100 years in prison with 30 years suspended leaving her an active sentence of 70 years to serve.
“It’s what justice demands,” said Nash.
Addressing the Judge, Cosby said the overwhelming question is why did Daniels get involved and participate as she had.
“She entered into a dark place in her involvement with these men,” said Cosby. “She was romantically involved with Lester. She was drinking and involved with drugs. She and Lester were lovers,” said Cosby, who added that she was aware of Lester’s violent tendencies.
“She was living the outlaw, thug life. Drinking. Weed. She let herself be dragged down into this terrible lifestyle with these men. That might not be the whole explanation but part of it,” Cosby said.
Cosby talked about the difference between Daniels, Lester and Hickman.
“She didn’t have a gun. She didn’t go inside. She didn’t shoot Coleman.” He pointed out that she had only been 19 at the time of the murder and had no previous violent offenses. He also pointed to the favorable letters and character witnesses and said that at the high end of the guidelines, she might have no one to help her when she gets out of prison. Cosby asked for a sentence near the low end of the sentencing guidelines, or lower.
Nash agreed that Daniels did not enter the Coleman home or shoot him.
“But,” he said, “I would counter the fact that Daniels rounded up this group. She drove them to the victims house. She told him the layout of the home, where to find money, warned them about the dog. And she waited in the truck, sitting and waiting for them to return.”
Nash said that had she not did the things she did, no one would have been shot.
“She was in control with all of this,” said Nash, pointing out that when they left the truck to go inside, she could have called the police or driven off. She didn’t. She was complicit. She was responsible.”
Calling the act “mean, cold, vile and evil,” Nash repeated his recommendation for a 100 year total sentence with 30 years suspended.”
Judge Osborn asked Daniels if she had anything she wished to say. A tearful Dakerie Daniels told the family and friends of Terrance Coleman that she was sorry and explained that she had told the informant those things because he had been a friend of Lester and she was afraid he would go back and tell him.
“It was all done for protection of myself,” she said, “I felt he was going to kill me. I’m very sorry for what happened and for what I said.”
She then read a prepared statement for the Coleman family, breaking into tears several times.
Judge Osborn said that he had been involved with all three of the murder cases involved and felt he was as familiar with the facts as anyone could be.
“It’s a terrible, horrible tragedy,” said Judge Osborn. “Nothing I do today will bring back Terrance. The question is what is the appropriate punishment? This would not have happened if not for you,” said Judge Osborn.
He added that while she had not pulled the trigger, she was involved in the felony. Firmly, the Judge said that he did not believe she had been under duress and had been involved from the beginning. “The issue at this point is how long the sentence is going to be.”
Judge Osborn said that the fact that she had been only 19 at the time of the murder, had no real criminal record previously and was not the shooter did make a difference and then handed down the sentence of 125 years on charges of First Degree Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, Conspiracy to commit Burglary and Animal Cruelty.
Speaking after the sentencing, Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash said that he was pleased with the final sentence.
“I’m very happy that we can continue to walk this family down the path to closing this absolutely tragic chapter of their lives and I truly believe the two masterminds of this crime have had justice dealt to them in the way it needed to be. Hopefully,” said Nash. “people will realize that violent crime does not pay here in Mecklenburg County.”
Final sentencing in the Hickman case is scheduled for next month.