Densmore gets life without parole for killing teenager, mentor
Photo by Jake Daniels / Chattanooga Times Free Press.
WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- Armed with pictures and petitions bearing more than 900 names Seara Adair would go into Whitfield County Superior Court, begging, tearfully, that Judge Cindy Morris would void a deal that spared Daniel Densmore's life.
"I did the best I could," she says. "I didn't just sit down and let it happen."
But Judge Morris tells her she must follow the law. "I cannot imagine the depth of your pain and suffering," the judge told the court. "I hope you will find comfort that the defendant has accepted responsibility and be comforted that he has taken his last breath as a free man."
"I kind of feel like a failure," Adair says afterward. "But I tried and that's all I can do, I guess."
By pleading guilty to two counts of murder, Densmore, 33, buys himself life without parole.
He agreed to the state's account of what happened last September 17; that he bought a gun at a flea market, went to the home of 61-year-old Julious Wayne Smith in Rocky Face, shot Smith three times, and then killed Adair's half-sister, 14-year-old Krista Babb, when she came out of a back bedroom to check on the noise.
"The jury may well have convicted and opted for death," Densmore's attorney Mike McCarthy says. "That factored into the decision."
As part of the agreement, prosecutors dropped charges of arson and robbery. They had alleged that Densmore left the house following the murders, and returned with gasoline, setting the home on fire.
Prosecutors say Densmore first claimed he had confronted Smith about an inappropriate relationship with Babb, and that she had been shot accidentally. He'd claimed he killed Smith in self-defense.
But her autopsy and physical evidence discounted that theory.
"We had not taken death off the table," says Conasauga Judicial District Attorney Bert Poston. "But a number of family members wanted this outcome. Death penalty cases are very difficult to go through for victim's families, and the process, with appeals, never ends."
Adair says she stood alone in calling for Densmore's death. "I believe, had we all been in agreement, it (a death penalty trial) would have happened. But the fact is, Wayne's side of the family didn't want it."
Densmore's attorney says his client's prior convictions for burglary and forgery, coupled with the aggravating circumstances surrounding the murders, meant that a trial likely would have produced the same result as a plea.
"It still would have been a life-without-parole sentence," McCarthy says.
Densmore himself has offered no explanation or apology.
His own family, and Smith's, leave court with varied expressions: some sobbing, others stoic. None offer a word of comment.
Seara Adair says she and Krista had considered 'Wayne' Smith a father figure. She blames Densmore for the death of their mother, one month after Krista's murder.
Her sense of morality won't allow her to give Densmore what her faith tells her she should.
"He didn't even have, excuse me, the balls to look at us when it (the plea agreement) was happening," she says. "I have no room for forgiveness in my heart for that man."
Wednesday, April 16 2014 11:40 PM EDT2014-04-17 03:40:13 GMT
In November 1978, the world watched in horror members of a cult called "The People's Temple", committed mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. A woman who escaped death, only because she was away from Jonestown on that fateful day, spoke at UTC and the Chattanooga Public Library, Wednesday night.More
In November 1978, the world watched in horror members of a cult called "The People's Temple", committed mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. A woman who escaped death, only because she was away from Jonestown on that fateful day, spoke at UTC and the Chattanooga Public Library, Wednesday night. More