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August 20, 2014, 4:25 pm

Prosecution rests in rape, murder trial

The trial of Donte Johnson continued Monday May 7 with prosecutors resting their case and the defendant making the decision not to testify.

Defense attorneys for the defendant are also expected to conclude their case, with the jury receiving their instructions from the judge sometime today.

Johnson, 20, is accused of raping and murdering Sabina Rose O’Donnell on June 2, 2010. Gary Server, Johnson’s defense attorney, has been calling his client’s confession into question, arguing that Johnson suffers from mental dysfunctions and may not have understood all of the details of what he was doing. Johnson decided not to testify, and defense counsel backed off a motion to call in character witnesses to attest to Johnson’s non-violence and peacefulness. Their reason was it would open the door for the prosecution to cross examine those witnesses regarding a 2010 charge against Johnson for simple assault. In that case, he was adjudicated delinquent.

Server also cross-examined Detective Thorsten Lucke, who took Johnson’s confession, and Detective Frances Kane, the lead investigator on the case. Server repeatedly asked questions regarding samples of long hair that were found on O’Donnell’s body. One hair was identified as animal hair; the others were human hair — one of which had a root. It was to be analyzed for DNA, but there was a question if it was ever sent.

“I don’t know,” Kane replied. “You’ll have to ask the criminalistics lab.”

But there was no question that Johnson’s semen was found on Sabina’s body. And Johnson admitted to putting her in a choke hold, saying that at one point she couldn’t breathe — that she was gasping for breath before she became unconscious. When Johnson was asked how the victim’s bra managed to be around her neck, Johnson allegedly replied it was probably him.

“That was probably from me trying to take her bra off,” Johnson allegedly replied. Lucke said Johnson seemed evasive and unwilling to go into too many details.

At one point during the proceedings, Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax put Sabina’s best friend Marie Rodriguez on the stand, asking her about the last hours she spent with the victim. In a testimony that bordered on tears, Rodriguez told the jury what they did that night and how she felt about her friend.

“She was the kind of person that made me want to do better,” Rodriguez said. “She helped get me a job at PYT. That day we got off work and got some pizza. We sat across from my house eating and just talking about life. We were just hanging out, you know? We laughed, we talked and we invited some friends over. We went out to eat and just hang out — the only argument we had was whether to eat inside the restaurant or outside. We ended up eating outside. We had a glass of wine and went back to my house. I fell asleep around 1 a.m. When I woke up Sabina was sitting in the chair. Normally she slept over, but I had a huge pile of clothes on my bed and I slept on the couch.”

Sabina asked her friend if she could borrow her bike to get home. Rodriguez said yes and that was the last time she saw her friend alive.