Cheesesteak stand slayer sentenced to 123 years in prison
Cheesesteak stand slayer sentenced to 123 years in prison
Prosecutor: Convict a 'key participant' in jail riot
When convicted killer Rey Davis-Bell walked into a Central District cheesesteak restaurant and gunned down its owner, Degene "Saffie" Dashasa, he destroyed more than one life.
Wounded, too, was his wife of two years, a woman living in his native Ethiopia preparing to join him in the Seattle.
There were his cousins, one young woman he'd supported in her decision to join the Army, another to whom it fell to return his remains to Ethiopia. There were the other members of the city's Oromo-speaking community, who felt their lives shaken.
For Dashasa's killing, and his attempts to kill three others during a daylong shooting spree, Davis-Bell, a multiple felon at 25, was sentenced to 123 years in prison.
King County Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen's ruling drew no noticeable response from Davis-Bell. For Dashasa's family and friends, the judge's ruling was welcome but did little to ameliorate the loss.
"When that bullet entered my cousin's chest, it didn't stop there," said Dashasa's cousin Amina, who asked that her last name not be publicized. "It went through mine, through my family, his co-workers and friends.
"It shattered our hearts."
Davis-Bell was convicted in February in the murder of Dashasa and of attempting to kill three other people. Among those caught in Davis-Bell's sights during the Jan. 30, 2008 shooting spree was Yoseb Lee, a contractor shot in the chest at the cheesesteak stand.
Charged with murder and three counts of attempted murder, Davis-Bell was convicted on all counts he faced in a string of shootings ending in the slaying of Dashasa and the life-threatening injuries to Lee.
During the three-week trial, prosecutors argued that Davis-Bell killed Dashasa, owner of Philadelphia Cheese Steak, during a spree targeting people Davis-Bell believed had wronged him. Lee was apparently shot in the chest by Davis-Bell simply for being in the restaurant when he came after Dashasa.
Describing Davis-Bell as a man without remorse, Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Castleton claimed Davis-Bell was a key participant in a March 28 disturbance at King County Jail that saw the facility and the surrounding area of downtown Seattle locked down.
At trial, prosecutors claimed the shooting spree began when Davis-Bell tried to kill his ex-girlfriend by firing nine shots through the window of her West Seattle apartment. From the stand, the woman said she'd been in an argument with Davis-Bell before bullets shattered the window; a 5-year-old girl was narrowly missed during the shooting.
From there, Davis-Bell set out after Dashasa.
Arriving at the restaurant at the corner of 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, Davis-Bell asked for Dashasa by name before killing him and shooting Lee, a stranger to Davis-Bell. He then opened fire on a restaurant employee as she ran from the restaurant.
Known as "Safie" to friends, Dashasa had come to the United States a decade before from Ethiopia. At the time of his death, Dashasa had recently married and was preparing to bring his wife to join him in his adopted home.
At Friday's sentencing hearing, Dashasa's friends and family described him as a man working toward the American dream.
A former restaurant worker, he'd become a business owner and worked tirelessly. He sent money back to family in Ethiopia while preparing for a life in Seattle with his new wife. He helped friends and strangers, delivering food to the homeless while participating in the Oromo community.
Addressing Inveen, Dashasa's wife, Meselech Edema Debella, described her husband as a man with plans for a family, a dream they shared.
"I was hurt a lot and I don't have nothing left for me," she said through an Oromo interpreter. "I never suspected my life to be this way."
Davis-Bell had led a different sort of life before taking Dashasa's.
He was convicted twice of making threats to kill before his 18th birthday. He was sent to prison at 18 after attacking a cab driver angry that he tried to pass off a bogus $10 bill.
The man's behavior didn't improve in prison, according to a civil suit filed by Lee, who is suing the Department of Corrections on the claim that the state failed to supervise Davis-Bell following his release from prison.
During an April 2005 fight at a Clallam Bay Corrections Center dining hall, Davis-Bell was shot in the leg by prison officers, Lee's lawsuit noted. The suit said Davis-Bell was attempting to kick a corrections officer in the head at the time.
Having served his sentence, Davis-Bell was classified as a high risk to reoffend and released into the community under Department of Corrections supervision. Lee's lawsuit claimed supervision consisted of little more than Davis-Bell checking in occasionally with a community corrections officer.
According to the suit, Davis-Bell "received 11 major serious infractions ranging from (threatening) staff and inmates to committing assault on staff." While in custody in 2002, he told a court-appointed psychiatrist that he planed to "get even with everybody who has done me dirty" after his release from prison in December 2006.
No motive for the Dashasa's killing has been offered.
Restaurant employees had said they'd seen Davis-Bell at the restaurant before and that Dashasa had kicked him out over suspicions that he was selling drugs. The restaurant is at a corner frequently associated with drug activity and gang violence.
Speaking Friday, Castleton described Davis-Bell as a remorseless man.
"The defendant has no remorse," Castleton told the judge. "The defendant has no feeling for anyone but himself. And the evidence shows he has an extremely short trigger."
Offered an opportunity to do so, Davis-Bell declined to address the court on the advice of his attorney.
At trial, Davis-Bell's lawyer argued that his client was the victim of mistaken identity. Not persuaded, the jury found Davis-Bell guilty on all five counts.
Even the sentence requested by Davis-Bell would have seen him imprisoned past his 100th birthday. Still, Inveen opted to impose a mid-range sentence close to that requested by prosecutors.
"It is very clear," she said, "that, for whatever reason, Mr. Davis-Bell has decided to live in a society with no respect for the rule of law."
Davis-Bell remains in custody at King County Jail. Castleton told Inveen he may face charges related to the lockdown at the facility.