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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

Friday, February 1, 2013

District Man Sentenced To 52 ½ Years In Prison For Murder And Other Charges In Killing At Northwest Washington Store- Store Owner Fatally Shot During Robbery-

     WASHINGTON - Dowen Knight, 48, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 52 ½ years in prison for first-degree felony murder while armed and related charges in the slaying of a Northwest Washington store owner, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

     A jury found Knight guilty of the crimes in October 2012, following a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Knight, who was convicted of 12 counts, was sentenced by the Honorable Florence Y. Pan.

     According to the evidence at trial, at approximately 9 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2009, Knight and an accomplice entered La Casa de Morata, a liquor store in the 5400 block of Georgia Avenue NW. The store owner, Rufina Hernandez, 51, and her son were working there at the time.

     Knight pulled a pistol, went behind the counter, and approached Ms. Hernandez. Upon seeing this, Ms. Hernandez’s son attempted to come to her assistance, but the accomplice ordered him not to move. As Knight approached Ms. Hernandez, she opened the cash register and invited him to take the money. Knight reached inside, took the bills and then fired a single shot, striking her in the left side of her chin.  Knight then pointed the gun at the son and ordered him to the floor. However, the son refused and backed into the storage room. Then Knight and the accomplice fled the store.

     When officers of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) arrived on the scene, they found Ms. Hernandez standing outside, being held upright by her son, who was still grasping the cell phone which he had used to make the 911 call. Paramedics transported her to the Washington Hospital Center. However, she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital.  

     The accomplice is currently awaiting sentencing in the case.

     In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the MPD detectives, officers, crime scene technicians, and forensics specialists who worked on the case. He also praised those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Alesha Matthews Yette and Litigation Technology Specialists Kimberly Smith, Leif Hickling, Paul Howell and William Henderson.  Finally, he commended the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Wheeler, who secured the indictment in the case and handled the prosecution at trial.


Updated February 19, 2015