Mesac Damas indicted on six counts of premeditated murder

Damas indicted on 6 counts of first-degree premeditated murder

Stephen Russell, State Attorney holds press conference ...

Mesac Damas confesses to killing his family

Damas says he wants to be buried ...

— A North Naples man already jailed on charges he killed his wife and five children was indicted Wednesday on six counts of first-degree premeditated murder.

Mesac Damas, 33, a cook at a local restaurant, faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of the brutal slayings of Guerline Dieu Damas, 32, and her children: Meshach “Zack,” 9, Maven, 6, Marven, 5, Megan, 3, and Morgan, 19 months.

Collier County sheriff’s deputies were called Sept. 19 after Guerline Damas hadn’t shown up for work at Publix and entered their rented townhouse at 864 Hampton Circle, where they found their bodies stabbed and their throats slashed. Damas fled to Haiti, but was brought back by sheriff’s detectives after he confessed to a Daily News reporter and an FBI agent following his arrest Sept. 21 by Haitian police.

“This really begins the formal prosecution of the case,” State Attorney Stephen Russell said Wednesday at a press conference in the Naples office at the new courthouse annex. “So now we have the transition to the court proceedings.”

Joining Russell were Assistant State Attorney Rich Montecalvo, who heads the Naples office, and Assistant State Attorney Dave Scuderi. Russell will be lead counsel, Montecalvo will be co-counsel and Scuderi will assist them.

Damas, who is on suicide watch, was being held without bond on the charges, but state law requires a grand jury of 15 to 21 citizens to hand up an indictment charging a defendant with first-degree murder. The grand jury hears only the prosecution’s side of a case, not the defense, and hands the indictment up to a judge.

Russell, who presented the case, declined to say how many witnesses testified before the grand jury Wednesday or how long deliberations took, saying that will be released in the grand jury’s official minutes when it finishes its six-month term.

He would not say whether they plan to seek the death penalty, but said his office’s standard procedure is to formally present the case to a Death Penalty Review Committee and they’d make that decision within the next few weeks.

Past Collier County death penalty cases usually have ended in defendants serving life after relatives agreed to a sentence of life in prison, which averts years of costly appeals and brings victims’ families closure. In the last death penalty case prosecuted by Montecalvo and Scuderi, the death penalty was dropped during the trial of Rodrigus Patten, 22, and jurors then rejected the insanity defense, finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Bonita Springs psychiatrist David Hoyer, 57. Hoyer was strangled during Patten’s mental competency evaluation at the county jail on Jan. 3, 2001; he’s serving life.

Russell said he has spoken to the victims’ families about their wishes — Damas has said he wants to die — but would not specify their wishes and said the ultimate decision whether to seek the death penalty rests with his office.

Damas’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mike Orlando, who defended Patten in 2005, declined comment. Collier Circuit Judge Frank Baker recently granted Orlando’s motion to appoint a forensic psychologist to determine if Damas is competent to stand trial and if he was insane at the time of the crime.

Damas will be arraigned by Baker on Oct. 26, when he also faces a violation of probation hearing before County Judge Rob Crown. He was serving probation on a misdemeanor battery conviction for hitting and choking his wife, causing their baby to fall to the ground on Jan. 9. The violations are that he left the county without telling his probation officer and that he was arrested on a new offense.

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