PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) — The man in custody for the Phenix City riverwalk double homicide has been in the Russell County Court system before.
Damon Daniels Jr., 29, had a prior criminal history that resulted in a 2019 Russell County Circuit Court conviction and an Alabama prison sentence.
Daniels was convicted in a 2015 shooting death – and sentenced to prison.
But the story is not as simple or as clear as those facts.
On April 13th, 2015, Leon Harmon Jr. was shot to death and another man was seriously wounded at Richardson Lounge on Seale Road in South Phenix City.
Daniels was arrested in 2016 and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
Russell County District Attorney Kenneth Davis picks up the story.
“It was a case in which although there were about two dozen witnesses as to what happened at the lounge,” Davis said. “There was a dearth of people who actually wanted to help us with what happened. We had one witness who was reliable and gave a good account of what happened.”
When the case went to trial in June 2018 something happened.
“But when it came time to try the case he refused to testify,” Davis said. “We actually stopped the trial.”
The witness could not be compelled to testify against Daniels.
“The judge incarcerated that individual for contempt of court,” Davis said. “And he was held in jail a number of months but never would help us try the case. So, we really had no choice but to take a plea in the case.”
That led to a mistrial. On June 27th, 2019, Daniels took a guilty plea in Russell County Circuit Court.
“He got a 20-year sentence for manslaughter and assault in the first degree,” Davis said.
That resulted in five years to-serve. Daniels has been in jail since 2016 and was released from prison in late 2021.
He was on probation at the time of the Phenix City double homicide on December 3rd. Daniels was living in Columbus at the time and had moved his probation from Alabama to Georgia.
The manslaughter charge that Daniels pled guilty to was a felony. But if he had been convicted of murder in the 2015 bar shooting, he would have received a sentence of life in prison.