Guilty verdict in Sabina Rose O'Donnell murder case

May 9, 2012 3:45:38 PM PDT
The man charged with having raped and strangled a Philadelphia waitress almost two years ago has been found guilty on all charges.

The jury deliberated for just about 3.5 hours and found Donte Johnson guilty of all charges in the rape and murder of Sabina O'Donnell.

The victim's family members reacted to the jury's decision moments after the guilty verdict.

"The verdict was, short of it never having happened, the best we could have hoped for," Sabina's mother Rachel O'Donnell said.

20-year-old Dante Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder, rape, robbery and burglary.

He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole and the judge tacked on an additional 40 to 80 years for good measure.

"The judge did everything he could possibly do and he did it with great conviction and I am really happy," Sabina's aunt said.

"My reaction is it was completely appropriate. It was completely consistent with the strongest case I have ever tried in 31 years," Assistant DA Richard Sax said.

In June 2010, the 20-year-old O'Donnell, a waitress in Northern Liberties, rode her bike home from a friend's house around 3:00 a.m.

Johnson was caught on surveillance in the area at the same time.

The jury agreed the evidence showed Johnson raped her, beat her, and strangled her.

Her unclothed body was discovered behind her home at 4th and Girard.

Johnson confessed and DNA evidence put him at the scene.

Still, today, he maintained his innocence telling the court, "How can you clearly say I did anything. I am truly sorry, but I didn't have no interaction with her. None, whatsoever. If I did something wrong, I would take responsibility."

The judge replied, "I don't have one scintilla of doubt you are the killer."

"I felt like it was his one last desperate attempt to do something for himself regardless of anyone else.," Rachel O'Donnell said.

The jury foreman says Johnson's guilt on every count was painfully obvious.

"It was just a clear cut case, murder in first degree," foreman Charles Ramirez said.

The defense had argued Johnson suffered from brain damage and questioned the credibility of his confession.

"As far as the sentence, the judge heard what he had to hear and he imposed the sentence he thought was fair under the circumstances. Do I agree with it? No, I don't agree with it," defense attorney Lee Mandell said.

The defense does plan to appeal.