Lanasha Rollerson was a 13-year-old girl who wanted to become a crime investigator but instead “ended up being investigated as a crime victim,” her mother told a judge Wednesday.
The judge told Tamika Maclin he was sorry for her loss, then sentenced the man who raped and murdered her daughter and later tried to dismember and burn her body to 39 years to life in prison.
State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller imposed the maximum sentence on Darshawn Morris for the Sept. 1 murder of Lanasha, who was stabbed more than 60 times and beaten following a party at his East Side apartment.
The judge told the 21-year-old defendant the sentence was designed to “ensure the protection of the public by having you spend the rest of your natural life behind bars.”
In addition to the maximum 25-year-to-life prison term for second-degree murder, the judge sentenced Morris to an additional seven years for second-degree rape and seven more years for second-degree criminal sexual act.
He ordered the sentences to run consecutively.
Morris had testified at his March trial that he didn’t kill Lanasha and that his cousin was the killer. Jurors didn’t buy that claim, convicting him of all three charges.
Morris also testified that he had sex with the 13-year-old girl, that he hid evidence in the case, that he helped his cousin dispose of the body in a neighbor’s garage and that at his cousin’s direction he tried to cut up the body with a saw, then burn it with gasoline.
At Wednesday’s sentencing, the judge said the defendant’s admissions showed what he was capable of doing. “What kind of person would do such despicable acts?” he asked Morris.
He added that the jury believed that Morris killed Lanasha, “and so did I.”
Maclin addressed the court before Morris was sentenced. She said she objected to her daughter being made to look like a prostitute during the trial. One witness had described the gathering at Morris’ apartment on Hagen Street as a sex party.
“She was a 13-year-old girl who didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Maclin said.
She said her daughter had a strict upbringing and was not allowed to go out at night. She said she was a loving girl who attended church regularly and helped her take care of her siblings.“She made some mistakes, but a prostitute she was not,” she said.
Attorney Emily Trott, who with Robert J. Cutting represented Morris, said the defense meant no disrespect during the trial when it questioned witnesses about Lanasha’s social activities.
Trott asked Boller to avoid vengeance in sentencing Morris, and requested that he impose less than the maximum sentence.
The judge then asked Morris if he had anything he wanted to say before being sentenced. The defendant said that on his attorneys’ advice, he had nothing to say.
Chief homicide prosecutor James F. Bargnesi told the judge that the crimes were “as bad as it gets,” calling the defendant’s actions gruesome and outrageous. “This case demands nothing short of the maximum,” he said.
Lanasha was killed Sept. 1 after the party in Morris’ apartment. Her body was found Sept. 3 in a garage on the property behind his apartment. Authorities charged Morris on Sept. 4 after he gave police two statements admitting he killed her.
In his first statement, Morris said he fought with Lanasha after she refused his request to leave his apartment before his wife returned home. He said she fell and hit her head. He told police he got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her when she still wouldn’t leave. He then put her body in the garage.
In his second statement, Morris said they struggled over the knife. She fell down, hit her head and lost consciousness, he said. He said she tried to stab him when she regained consciousness. He said he then accidentally stabbed her.
Morris said she got up and ran into the backyard, where he grabbed her foot as she climbed a gate and he cut her neck. He said she fell into a hole in the back wall of the neighbor’s garage and he left her there.