Maryland woman gets life sentence for murdering her mother, burning body

Posted: July 25, 2014

JAHINA DAMON thought her mother was an alien who was possessed by the devil.

She also believed her mother would have to be killed and burned to be freed from the devil's clutches, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb said.

So, she hatched a twisted plan. And on the morning of Dec. 20, 2007, the mentally ill Hagerstown, Md., woman set it in motion.

With a .380 semiautomatic handgun she purchased legally in Maryland, Damon drove to the Cobbs Creek Parkway home of her mother, Lolita Lee, 53, and unleashed a wave of terror.

Damon fatally shot her mom in the chest, doused her with gasoline and set her body on fire. She fired at, but missed, her mom's boyfriend, Donald Harmon, 67. Then, she doused with gasoline and set ablaze family friend Kelli Winters, 50, who was badly disfigured but survived. The house was gutted by the fire.

Yesterday, Damon, 36, dressed in a gray sweat suit, her hair neatly pressed, learned her fate in court: life in state prison without parole for her mother's first-degree murder.

Common Pleas Judge Steven Geroff also sentenced Damon to 20 to 40 years for the attempted murder of Winters, 10 to 20 years for the attempted murder of Harmon, 10 to 20 years for arson and 2 1/2 to five years for possession of an instrument of crime.

Geroff, who in February found Damon guilty but mentally ill after a nonjury trial, ordered that the Department of Corrections provide her with the necessary treatment for her "severe mental illness."

"Let me just say initially," Geroff said, pausing to find the words.

"We see it all in this courtroom. This case just touched my heart," he said in acknowledging the strength of Winters' relatives in the courtroom.

John Rodney Siegel, who described himself as a stepfather figure to Winters during a victim-impact statement, said Winters had been invited to the home by Lee to talk to Damon about getting mental-health treatment.

After being attacked, he said, Winters managed to drive herself three miles to a hospital. She spent three months in an induced coma only to wake up to see her disfigured hands, face, arms and body, Siegel said.

Winters, a mother and grandmother of two, died of natural causes at 53 in 2011, he said.

Damon declined to speak when given the chance. She was overheard asking her lawyer, David Rudenstein, if she would serve her sentence in a mental-health facility.

"Probably not," Rudenstein responded.

Lipscomb said Damon drove home to Maryland after attacking her mother and the others. She was arrested there seven days later.

"Never!" he said, when asked if he had ever tried a case similar to this one.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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