As he loudly proclaimed that he is the real victim here, convicted murderer Demetrius Donald Dee Coleman was sentenced today to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Judge Kelly Neel, dismissing Coleman’s claims of innocence, handed him life without possibility of parole for the August 2019 drive-by shooting of 26-year-old Johnny Mack Renfro. The Texas man was shot as he stood near his car on a street in Rio Dell. Neel also sentenced Coleman to 25 years to life for the crime of personally discharging a firearm. She added five more years because Coleman, 41, was previously convicted of a serious felony.
“Johnny Renfro is not my responsibility,” Coleman declared before he was sentenced. “I don’t know Johnny Renfro. I feel for his family, but where’s the real killer?”
The real killer, Coleman testified during his trial, was a Jamaican man named “Dred” who drove Coleman’s sedan to Rio Dell and shot Renfro as Coleman (a very large man) managed to conceal himself in the back seat.
Now Coleman says one fellow inmate at Humboldt County Correctional Facility swore he heard another fellow inmate bragging about killing Renfro. There is no corroboration that someone else committed the murder. Also, none of the new witnesses is available now.
This new evidence, along with complaints about the first trial, was the basis for defense attorney Zack Curtis’s motion for new trial.
“It should be before a jury,” Curtis said.
Coleman fired his trial attorney, Andrea Sullivan, after the jury convicted him of all charges. Today Coleman complained about Sullivan, claiming she gave him bad advice and even encouraged him to speak in “Eubonics” when he testified.
Today’s sentencing was at times chaotic. Coleman was ranting about the miscarriage of justice. Meanwhile, his toddler son was babbling in the audience. And his girlfriend, Alma Ahumada-Mendoza, was kicked out of the courtroom when she hollered out something about being threatened.
“Out! Out!” said the bailiff as she left, carrying the toddler.
Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer, the trial prosecutor, said none of the so-called new evidence was credible. Coleman continues to “fabricate details,” she said, just as he did at trial.
Schaffer read letters written by three members of Renfro’s family, including his mother.
“I can’t imagine what was going on in my son’s mind when he was shot that beautiful day,” the mother wrote.
As for the killer, “ I don’t like to look down on people. But if that person does wrong then he needs to pay.”
Another family member described Renfro as artistic, creative and a talented musician. His family will never forget his infectious smile.
“He had much to offer this world,” one of the family members said.
Coleman responded with “What about the real killer?”
In sentencing Coleman, Neel told him he was making false statements and she believed he killed Renfro.
“He had a mama and a daddy who loved him and you took that away,” the judge said.
“I didn’t take nothin’ away,” Coleman said.
Initially Ahumada-Mendoza and Coleman were both charged with murder. Judge Timothy Canning dismissed Ahumada-Mendoza’s charges at the preliminary hearing.
The prosecution’s theory was that Coleman killed Renfro because he believed he was one of three men who robbed Coleman of marijuana in Eureka.
Weeks after the shooting, Ahumada-Mendoza and Coleman were tracked down and arrested in North Dakota.
Outside the courtroom, Schaffer credited the Rio Dell Police Department for the outcome today.
“The Rio Dell Police Department worked tirelessly to solve this case,” Schaffer said, “and investigate all leads and possible defenses. This was the result of their work.”
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