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Chapel Hill Man Receives Life Sentence in Girlfriend's Slaying

Posted January 29, 2007

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— An Orange County man who murdered his live-in girlfriend last year avoided the death penalty Monday after making a plea deal with prosecutors.

Damego Lee had a long history of abusing Keara Hart prior to strangling her and stabbing her to death last April. He was sentenced to life in prison in Hart’s death.

For friends and family, the last nine months have been devastating.

“You've sentenced me to this life of pain, grief and terror,” Hart’s sister, Lauren Johnson, said during Lee’s sentencing hearing. “You will spend your life in prison, but you've given our family a life sentence.”

“My son -- Keara's nephew -- wanted to take a bat to school right after the murder because he was scared someone would hurt him, too,” said Hart’s sister, Leigh Gonzales.

Lee has a past littered with bouts of domestic violence. Last February, he was released from a Florida jail after serving time for abuse. Two months later, Hart was found dead in her Chapel Hill apartment.

“Laws in this country don't protect women from suffering abuse and dying at the hands of husbands and boyfriends,” said Hart’s mother, Darien Russell.

Russell has spent most of her career working with batterers and their victims. She had seen what abuse can do to a person. On Monday, she wanted Lee to understand domestic violence doesn't stop with one victim, but it affects an entire community.

“I have so many pictures of Keara in my mind -- as a baby, as a toddler, as a young mother. But now I also have the picture in my mind of the brutal way she died,” Russell said
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  • norwinfischer Jan 30, 2007

    Plea agreement? Please. He was found guilty of murder. If they can truly and undeniable prove it was him (i.e. DNA evidence) then it should only be a matter of time before he faces the death penalty (lethal injection). How many more innocent people have to be killed and their murderers just sit in prison "spared" by a sympathetic jury? The message that needs to be sent is "you kill, there is a pretty darn good chance you will be executed shortly after you are proven guilty." (Remember, I did say the defendants would have to be proven guilty through tangible evidence.) By the way, I guess you can say I support the death penalty too.

  • marknjane Jan 30, 2007

    Keara was married to my brother for 9 years and they have 2 beautiful children. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was go with my brother and tell my neice & nephew that mama was dead. Then tell them that a man they trusted & loved was her killer. I have watched them
    change so much over the past year. No 12 or 8 year old child should have live with what they live with everyday. My prayers are with the whole family. I hope one day you all can find some kind of peace. Anyone in this situation get out NOW, if not for yourself do it for your kids and family.

  • anneonymousone Jan 29, 2007

    That's one reason to like Joe Biden (D-Del, thinking of running for the presidency in 2008); he takes violence against women seriously and has written substantial legislation that proves that. Dang, it's almost as if women _matter_ to him.

  • Richie in Willow springs Jan 29, 2007

    HOW DOES HE GET TO PLEA BARGAIN ????????? Did his victim get to ? obviously not . This country has no backbone , we feel bad for the poor fellow who repeatedly abused his wife untill she died ??????
    abuse him untill he dies !!! that simple

  • exxe75 Jan 29, 2007

    What they needed to do was shackle him, and put him in a room with the victim's family and friends, and give them about 10 Ginsu knives. Life in prison is the same as getting away with the crime. Another MURDERER who deserves to die. Now those of us who work for a living get to pay his bills and feed and take care of him for the rest of his life. Just great.

  • Richie in Willow springs Jan 29, 2007

    DID THE VICTIM GET TO PLEA FOR HER LIFE ?????? How does he get to ??? This country has no back bone , we feel bad for the poor fellow that abused his wife repeatadly untill she died , then he gets a plea ???????????
    ABUSE HIM TILL HE DIES !!!!!

  • tinawalker Jan 29, 2007

    Let's talk about the woman in Roxboro who was murdered-about 10 days ago--- by an aquaintence, as the newspaper called him, our local DA is ashamed to call it domestic violence....hopefully someone will read this and relay to District 9-A DA that he's being monitored and he's best to stand up to the plate, fight for women in this county that are being abused, physically, sexuall & emotionally. Rural counties need help, the women of district 9-A need help. As John Edwards says: TOMORROW BEGINS TODAY.....must we wait for a stronger prosecutor?

  • Ban One Jan 29, 2007

    Why in the world would this get pled down. He has a long history of violence. Then strangled and stabbed her to death.

    This is more of a sign of the sick times we are in. Come on DA's step up to the plate and quit making deals. Do your job and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

  • spiritwarriorwoman Jan 29, 2007

    "Lee has a past littered with bouts of domestic violence. Last February, he was released from a Florida jail after serving time for abuse."
    What a shame someone didn't take this guy's abuse seriously - before this woman was killed.
    Praying for law enforcement and justices to wake fully up to this problem, and nip bullies in the bud.
    God bless.
    Rev. RB