Man found guilty of murder in deaths of Sumter woman, her 5-year-old daughter
SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - A man is facing life in prison after a jury found him guilty of all four counts in the murders of a Sumter woman and her five-year-old daughter.
On Friday, Daunte Johnson was convicted on two murder counts, and two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
“We have had our day in court here,” Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest “Chip” Finney said following the verdict. “He came here like a storm, and now the storm is over.”
Johnson was sentenced to life in prison.
Johnson was arrested in August 2019 shortly after Sharee Bradley’s body was found in her home at the Lantana Apartments by her son. According to the incident report, Johnson had been in a relationship with Bradley.
Five weeks later, after an extensive search, the remains of Bradley’s five-year-old daughter, Neveah Adams, were found in a Richland County landfill.
After three days of witness testimony, deliberations on Friday took a little more than two hours before the jury returned to the courtroom with their verdict.
As the verdicts were read, there were a lot of tears in the courtroom, from both family members and some Sumter Police officers who worked long hours on the case. There were also some audible gasps.
Johnson stared straight ahead as the verdict came down.
Just before sentencing, Melissa Nelson, who is Bradley’s mother and Adams’ grandmother, addressed the court.
“My God says that I have to forgive him for what he did to my child and my granddaughter if I want to see my God one day, and for that I will,” she said. “But I’ll never forget what he did to my daughter and my granddaughter.”
Dupray Adams, Neveah’s father, said he hopes Johnson finds God.
“I don’t wish for you to die, I wish for you to every day feel the pain that we felt,” he said.
In announcing his sentencing, Judge R. Ferrell Cothran Jr. said, “It is no reason to murder anybody, but especially no reason to murder a five-year-old child.”
“I hope some time in the rest of your life in prison you will be able to deal with what you’ve done, and as the family have said, somehow rectify your life and have some remorse for what you’ve done,” Cothran said.
Earlier in the day, the prosecution and defense gave closing arguments after the defense did not call any witnesses.
The judge declined the defense’s request to give the jury the option of considering a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Bradley.
Prosecution started its closing argument by reminding jurors of testimony from a Sumter Police Detective Jim Kearney who responded to the murder scene and said he noticed a strong smell of cleaning solution, and swirls on the floor, as if someone had been mopping.
“I’m not going to waste my time this morning telling you about every box and every thing because you heard the evidence,” Finney said. “This is a pretty tight case.”
Prosecutors alleged it was Johnson mopping up after stabbing Bradley and Adams to death.
During the trial, Laura Hash, a forensic scientist with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, said that a swab from a mop at the murder scene could be traced back to Johnson.
The prosecution also recalled testimony from Detective Jeffery Hansen, who said that Johnson confessed to the murders in an interview with him.
The defense argued that false confessions can happen, and questioned why that statement was not recorded.
“I’d be especially worried about a false confession whereas Detective Hansen said Daunte started to ramble at the end of this interview,” Public Defender Elizabeth Neyle said.
In the defense’s closing argument, Neyle also questioned why neighbors at the Lantana Apartments did not report hearing anything on the night of the murders.
Following the verdict and sentencing, Finney told reporters that he does not want Adams to be remembered for the way that she died.
“She was a blessing from above,” he said. “Her parents gave her the name Neveah because backwards it spelled heaven, and I want people to remember her life that. I want people to remember that her mother passed away with her, and that’s special too because her mother had a lot to do with the raising of her and the kind of woman she was going to be.”
Finney said he does expect there to be appeals in this case, but that the verdict gives the family “a way back to finding peace.”
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