FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 23, 2012
For Information Contact:
District Man Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison
For December 2010 Murder of Southwest Washington Woman
- Defendant Tried to Make it Look Like the Victim Was Killed by a Burglar -
WASHINGTON - Shawn Davis, 37, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 18 years in prison for the murder of a former girlfriend, who had turned to him for help within hours of suffering a painful leg injury, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Davis pled guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in November 2011 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Gerald I. Fisher. Upon completion of his prison term, Davis will be placed on five years of supervised release.
According to the government’s evidence, Davis and the victim, Tawanna Barnes-Copeland, 41, started a romantic relationship in the summer of 2010. After a few months, Ms. Barnes-Copeland broke it off. Davis still had feelings for her, however, and was jealous that she had moved on. Notwithstanding the break-up, the two remained in contact, and Ms. Barnes-Copeland sometimes called Davis to ask him for favors, such as running errands.
In the early morning hours of December 7, 2010, Ms. Barnes-Copeland suffered a leg injury at a hospital where she worked the midnight shift as a phlebotomist. Her leg was placed in a removable, soft cast and she returned to her apartment in the unit block of Galveston Place SW. She called Davis and asked if he would fill her prescription for pain medication.
Davis left his home and went to Ms. Barnes-Copeland’s apartment about 6 a.m. After he arrived, the two began arguing about their past relationship. Davis was angry that Ms. Barnes-Copeland still called him and asked for favors, yet she did not want to be in a relationship with him. During this argument, the defendant grabbed a knife from the kitchen and went to the bedroom, where he stabbed Ms. Barnes-Copeland more than 10 times in the chest and neck. Ms. Barnes-Copeland had tried to defend herself, but was somewhat defenseless because of the injury to her leg.
After the murder, Davis tried to conceal his actions. Davis had previously lived with Ms. Barnes-Copeland, and he knew that her apartment had recently been burglarized by someone entering the kitchen window. Davis opened the kitchen window from inside the apartment and pushed the screen out. He also took Ms. Barnes-Copeland’s cell phone and then went to work. Ms. Barnes-Copeland’s body was not discovered until that evening, almost 12 hours later.
With no eyewitnesses or earwitnesses to the murder, lead homicide detective Gus Giannakoulias, of the Metropolitan Police Department, carefully pieced together the circumstantial evidence, all of which conclusively pointed to Davis.
On the evening of the murder, Davis provided the police with a false alibi, stating that he was at work at the time. The defendant’s cellular phone records placed the defendant in the area of the murder, and also showed him in contact with Ms. Barnes-Copeland before the murder. Moreover, the defendant took the victim’s phone from the apartment, and records showed that her phone was located at his place of employment (along with the defendant’s phone) at the time that Davis arrived at work - which was several hours late. Coupled with motive and forensic evidence, Giannakoulias soon obtained a warrant for Davis’s arrest in January 2011. A grand jury indicted Davis on one count of first degree murder in August 2011.
The murder took place just more than two years after Davis was released from prison after serving 12 years for an involuntary manslaughter charge stemming from a 1994 traffic fatality.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department, including lead Detectives Gus Giannakoulias and James Wilson, as well as Detectives Anthony Greene, Norma Horne, Joshua Branson, and Gabriel Truby. He also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Larry Grasso of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, and Paralegal Kwasi Fields.
Finally, he thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh, who led the grand jury investigation and prosecuted the case.