Hillsborough state attorney to seek death penalty for man accused of 2 Tampa slayings

Damien Marshall is accused in the separate stabbing deaths last year of two women in Tampa.
Damien Marshall is facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Linda Harris and Jenny DeLeon.
Damien Marshall is facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Linda Harris and Jenny DeLeon. [ Photo provided / Tampa Police Department ]
Published May 20, 2022

TAMPA — Hillsborough prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man they’ve accused of committing two separate murders last year in Tampa.

Damien Marshall faces two counts of first-degree murder for the Sept. 27 stabbing of Linda Harris and the Nov. 2 stabbing of Jenny DeLeon. Court records and testimony indicate that DNA and other evidence linked Marshall to both crimes.

A written notice filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court last week states that if Marshall is found guilty of the crimes, prosecutors will ask a jury to recommend a death sentence.

The notice lists aggravating circumstances that the state says apply to both murders. They include that Marshall was convicted of a prior felony, and that the killings were especially “heinous, atrocious or cruel.”

“We’ve sought death in the rare case that constitutes the worst of the worst murders in our community,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. “Marshall is a convicted sex offender who brutally murdered two people in two separate incidents within the same month.”

Marshall, 40, remains jailed without bail. His next court date is set for June 22. At a bail hearing in March, his public defender admitted that Marshall had sex with the victims, but questioned whether the state had enough evidence to prove that he was guilty of killing them.

Both women were homeless and had made money through prostitution, according to court records.

A construction crew found Harris, 54, dead in a house that was set to be demolished at 1806 E Sligh Ave. A detective later testified that she had been stabbed close to 60 times.

Related: No bond for Tampa man arrested in stabbing deaths of 2 women

About six weeks later, someone called 911 in the early morning to report that someone was lying on the ground, covered in blood, beside a house that was being remodeled at 8510 N Ninth St. The home is about two miles from where Harris was murdered.

Officers arrived and found DeLeon, 25, who had also been stabbed. An unidentified witness, who’d been staying in a nearby home, told police he awoke to the sound of a woman screaming, “please stop, it hurts.” The witness grabbed a crowbar and walked outside. He saw DeLeon lying face-down, motionless, and a man standing over her.

The witness said the man told him “this has nothing to do with you.” He quoted the man saying “that ho owes me an ounce of heroin, that ho owes me an ounce of crack,” according to an arrest report.

The witness said the man left after he threatened him with the crowbar.

When detectives retraced DeLeon’s whereabouts before she was killed, they found surveillance video that showed her with a man. Police used facial recognition software to identify the man as Marshall.

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When detectives questioned him, Marshall admitted he’d paid DeLeon for sex, according to court testimony. But an arrest report states that he claimed an unidentified man approached while they were together and remained in the yard after he left. He denied that any violent act occurred and said DeLeon was still alive when he left.

Related: Still no answers in Tampa killing of 25-year-old trans woman

Marshall also acknowledged he’d been with Harris the night she was killed.

Phone records placed him near the murder scenes around the time of both killings, police said.

Investigators searched Marshall’s home on Armenia Avenue in Tampa. They retrieved a Mickey Mouse belt on which they identified blood. Investigators identified Harris’ DNA on samples from the belt, according to an arrest report.

Tests identified Marshall as a possible contributor to DNA that investigators identified on DeLeon’s fingernails, the report states.

Marshall’s is one of five cases in which Hillsborough prosecutors are seeking a death sentence. The others are:

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who is accused of four separate murders that occurred in the fall of 2017 in Tampa’s southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood.

McKinsie Lyons, who is accused of killing a man and a pregnant woman during a 2018 home invasion robbery in Ruskin.

Steven Lorenzo, who is serving a 200-year federal prison sentence on drug-related charges, but awaits a state murder trial for the 2003 killings of two men at his Seminole Heights home.

A unanimous jury last year recommended a death sentence for Tyrone Johnson, who was found guilty of the 2018 shootings his girlfriend and her 10-year-old son in Tampa. Johnson still awaits official sentencing by a judge.