Prosecution rests in Sabina O’Donnell murder trial

After four days of testimony, prosecutors have rested their case against 20-year-old Donte Johnson, who is on trial for the murder and rape of Sabina Rose O’Donnell in June 2010.

O’Donnell was found partially clothed and bloodied in a lot outside the apartment she shared with her father. Prosecutors claim Johnson attacked the diminutive 20-year-old because he wanted her bike. If convicted of first-degree murder, Johnson would automatically be sentenced to life in prison.

Mark Rounds, O’Donnell’s father, testified today that he last saw his daughter the morning of June 1 when she left to go to work at PYT Restaurant. The next morning, he said, when he left the apartment he saw the street cordoned off with police tape. He was taken to police headquarters where he gave a statement to homicide investigators, he said. Rounds also testified that he later went to the medical examiner’s office to identify O’Donnell’s body.

The most emotional testimony came from Marie Elise Rodriguez, O’Donnell’s best friend, who told jurors that she and O’Donnell went out to eat with friends at a restaurant and then went to Bar Ferdinand in Northern Liberties before returning to her apartment on June 1. Rodriguez said O’Donnell woke her around 1 a.m. to ask if she could borrow Rodriguez’s bicycle to ride home. Sabina took the bike and that was the last time the two saw each other, Rodriguez testified.

“Normally, she slept over, but I had a huge pile of clothes on my bed so I slept on the couch,” Rodriguez said with tears in her eyes.

Johnson’s defense attorneys said that Johnson will not take the stand. They also will not call character witnesses due the judge’s ruling that the prosecution would be allowed to cross-examine those witnesses about Johnson’s criminal history. They are expected to rely on testimony from a psychologist that Johnson has the mental competence of an adolescent.

Last year, Johnson agreed to plead guilty in exchange not facing the death penalty, but he later changed lawyers and opted to go to trial. The District Attorney’s office has since chosen not to pursue the death penalty, in part, due to Johnson’s age.

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