BOOKMARK DAMAS SECTION
NAPLES — Despite a confession broadcast around the world, the public defender representing 33-year-old Mesac Damas said Wednesday that he plans to file a “not guilty” plea on behalf of his client, who is accused of murdering his wife and children.
Collier County Deputy Public Defender Mike Orlando also said he had concerns about Damas’ mental state.
Filing a not-guilty plea is standard procedure in most criminal cases because it gives defense attorneys ample time to review a case, ensure the arrest and confession — if there is one — was gained legally, and conduct their own investigation.
Investigators from the Public Defender’s Office met with Damas for the first time Wednesday afternoon. He was booked into the jail at 3:35 a.m. after being extradited Tuesday night from Haiti, where he had been in hiding since Friday.
Orlando declined to provide details of the meeting.
“I can say that there were concerns that I had concerning his mental state,” Orlando said. “I will be following up on those issues.”
Also Wednesday, the arrest warrant charging Damas with six counts of premeditated first-degree murder was released. The warrant alleges that Damas slit the throats of his wife, Guerline Damas, 32, and five children - Meshack, 9; Marven, 6; Maven, 5; Megan, 3; and Morgan, 11 months - and stabbed each of them.
The warrant says the crime was committed Thursday or Friday last week.
Affidavits providing further details into the slayings were sealed by County Judge Vince Murphy at the request of Collier sheriff’s Detective Andrew Henchesmoore. The sealed envelope in the court file is marked “confidential until 10/10/09.”
The search warrant and affidavits showing the evidence gathered after investigators searched the North Naples townhouse haven’t yet been filed with the County Clerk’s Office.
Damas, a cook at a local restaurant, could be executed if the State Attorney’s Office seeks the death penalty in the case.
Damas confessed to a Daily News reporter in Haiti on Tuesday that he’d killed his family and wanted to die and go to heaven. He appears to have blamed his actions on the devil.
A video of the confession, originally posted on naplesnews.com, was broadcast worldwide Wednesday.
“I think it’s bogus,” said Mackindy Dieu, 24, the brother of Guerline Damas. “It makes no sense what he’s saying. He’s coming up with excuses.”
Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk also commented on the video Wednesday.
“Any suspect in any case can make a statement either supporting or not supporting their involvement,” Rambosk said. “We have a much different burden of proof that we have to proceed with. We’re continuing to prepare a thorough investigation.”
Attempts to reach Damas inside the Collier County jail were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kristi Lester said that Damas was being held in the jail’s medical unit because he is considered to be posing a danger to himself and others, due to the nature of the crimes he is accused of.
Lester said he wasn’t being held on suicide watch, despite Damas telling the Daily News that he wanted to kill himself, but “didn’t have the courage to do it.”
There are three criteria to be housed in the medical unit: inmates under suicide watch, inmates with a medical condition, and inmates, like Damas, who are considered a threat to themselves and others due to the nature of the crime.
“Anyone who is arrested for a capital offense, we always put them under psychological observation until we determine they are not a threat to themselves,” said sheriff’s Capt. Joe Bastys, who is in charge of the jail.
Bastys said the inmate will remain in the medical housing unit until an evaluation of his mental health determines he isn’t a risk to himself.
“There is always a possibility that the psychological issues would not be ruled out, but he would go to a segregation unit under high-risk status,” Bastys said.
Damas was slated to make his first appearance in court before Collier County Judge Janeice Martin on Wednesday afternoon, but he declined to appear. He remains behind bars, and is being held without bond.
Damas’ arraignment is set for 8:15 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19. The case will most likely take at least a year to get to trial, Orlando said.
“We’ve just at the very beginning stage,” he said.
DAMAS FAMILY KILLINGS COVERAGE
ONE YEAR LATER:
- Year after slayings of Guerline Damas, five kids, relatives ask ‘did it really, really happen?’
- Confessed killer Mesac Damas wants to die, so should court system let him?
- Damas family slayings: Year later, still haunting lives of friends, family, deputies
- Jail phone call: Accused killer Mesac Damas talks to father about his slain family, Satan and adultery
MESAC DAMAS CONFESSION VIDEO:
DAILY NEWS STAFF JOURNALISTS TALK ABOUT THE CASE:
- THE FIELD: Naples Daily News staff writer describes how he obtained an interview with Mesac Damas
- THE FIELD: Visual Journalist Greg Kahn discusses being the first journalist at the Damas crime scene, and other observations from the field.
- THE FIELD: Staff Writer Steven Beardsley answers questions about his interview with Mesac Damas