Local News

Chapel Hill Man Receives Life Sentence in Girlfriend's Slaying

Posted January 29, 2007 5:27 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2007 6:01 p.m. EST

— 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