Marcus Dansby’s death penalty case rescheduled for spring of 2019

Marcus Dansby faces the death penalty in his trial on four counts of murder, including that of an unborn baby. (Photo by the Allen County Sheriff's Department)

A man facing the death penalty if convicted of the four charges of murder against him, including the death of an unborn baby, appeared in court Friday, a week after an Allen Superior judge said his lawyer wasn’t qualified for the case.

Judge Fran Gull removed Nikos Nakos as lead attorney of Marcus D. Dansby’s case, “as he is not qualified to prove the high-quality representation required by the 6th Amendment to the United State Constitution,” according to court records.

Nakos was replaced with public defender Michelle Kraus as lead attorney and former Allen County Prosecutor Robert Gevers as co-counsel. Gull found Friday they were qualified, which includes taking at least 12 hours of capital defense training, and the prosecution agreed to reset the trial for April 15-May 31, 2019.

Dansby sat between his public defenders during Friday’s hearing and smiled at his family and Nakos, who were all sitting in the front row of the courtroom. Nakos, a private attorney, said after the hearing that he was there at Dansby’s wish and had not been ruled out as a third counsel in the case.

Dansby is charged with four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for the Sept. 11, 2016, attack that killed Consuela Arrington, 37; her son Traeven Harris, 18; and her daughter Dajahiona Arrington, 18, who was 8½ months pregnant with a boy. One teen survived life-threatening injuries.

The Allen County Coroner’s Office determined the unborn boy would have lived if Dajahiona Arrington, who was Dansby’s ex-girlfriend, had not died.

The shootings took place at Consuela Arrington’s home in the 3000 block of Holton Avenue. She was shot and stabbed, according to an autopsy.

Dansby’s murder trial had been scheduled for February 2017, then last September, and eventually moved to March 21-30, with no sessions Fridays-Mondays during that time. The change in counsel, as well as the time it would take to determine an interlocutory appeal – an appeal while a trial case is ongoing – that Dansby’s new defense plans to file to determine Nakos’ removal was proper led to the trial being rescheduled for 2019.

According to court documents, Fort Wayne Police officers found Dansby inside the house and took him into custody. A witness told officers he had been asleep with his girlfriend in the basement and went upstairs to investigate the commotion when he found Dansby covered in blood, putting a blanket on Consuela Arrington. He asked why Dansby was there, but Dansby didn’t answer him. The relative told police Dansby and Dajahiona Arrington had broken up about six months ago and he believed the baby was not his.

Dansby told police he was on the porch talking with Dajahiona Arrington when he saw a man “mean mugging” him, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Allen Superior Court. It was this man, Dansby said, who did the crime while he hid in Arrington’s closet. When he came out of the closet, he saw a man swinging his arm with a knife as if he were stabbing someone and went looking for a phone to call 911. Police found Dansby in possession of Consuela Arrington’s phone as well as a knife, which he accused the police of “planting” on him, the affidavit said.

Police examined Arrington’s closet, allegedly finding that the number of items in it prevented the door from closing; they also saw it was not possible for Dansby to have hidden in the closet while the killings took place, according to the affidavit. Police also allegedly found a bloodied handgun that contained a smeared handprint hidden under the wall of the porch. Dansby told police his cat was responsible for cuts on his hands, the affidavit said.

Death penalty experience

On Friday, Kraus said that the Public Defender’s Office will limit their caseload as the trial date approaches.

She has handled these death penalty cases:

• She served as lead defense attorney for Simon Rios, a Mexican national and Fort Wayne resident who was sentenced in Delaware County for the rape and killing of 10-year-old Alejandra Gutierrez, a Fort Wayne native and friend of the Rios family he lured into his van Dec. 8, 2005, while she was on her way to a school-bus stop near her Clinton Street home. He then dumped her body in a gravel pit in northern Delaware County. Days later Rios killed his wife and three young daughters – ages 10 months, 20 months and 10 years old – with an extension cord and shoelaces back in Fort Wayne before drawing a map to show police where he left Gutierrez’s body.

In September 2017 Rios got life in prison without parole in a plea deal in the Delaware County case. The next month he pleaded guilty in Allen County to four counts of murder and two counts of moving bodies after a suspicious death. In return, Allen County prosecutors dropped the death penalty and offered him life in prison without parole.

Rios hanged himself while imprisoned at the Pendleton Correction Facility a little over a week after the Allen County case concluded.

• She represented Gregory Scott Johnson during an appeal of his death sentence after he was convicted in 1986 of the beating death of an 82-year-old Anderson woman and setting her home on fire. The Indiana Supreme Court denied his appeal and he was executed in May 2005.

• She represented Zolo Agona Azania, previously known as Rufus Averhart, during his 1996 appeal of the death sentence imposed after his conviction for the murder of Gary Police Lt. George Yaros 15 years earlier during a bank robbery in Gary. He was tried in Allen County. The Indiana Supreme Court overturned that and a second death penalty sentence. Before a third death penalty trial started in 2007, the Yaros family agreed to the prosecutor dropping the death penalty in return for a 74-year sentence. He was released last year from the Miami Correctional Facility in Indiana after serving 35 years in prison because of time for good behavior.

Death penalty in Allen County

Dansby is one of a handful of men in the last 20 years to face the death penalty or threat of it in Allen County. Simon Rios, mentioned above, and others have plea-bargained their charges down to life sentences without parole or what likely could amount to a life sentence.

• Michael L. Plumadore would have faced the death penalty had he not pleaded guilty in May 2012 and chosen to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Aliahna Lemmon. The 9-year-old was killed Dec. 22, 2011, and her body dismembered.

• Ronrico Hatch pleaded guilty in February 2004 to firing the shot that killed 17-year-old Cheri Sue Hartman in August 2002. In return for his plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a request for the death penalty and ask that he instead be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

• Lamar “Marty” Parker, 30, pleaded guilty in 2002 to the shootings of Calvin Soil, 39, and Anissa Cole, 26, on May 24, 2001. Soil died soon after from his chest wound. Cole lingered in a coma for six months after being shot in the head before her death. Prosecutors planned to file for the death penalty before his plea agreement, which required Parker, 31, to serve 110 years in prison.

• Joseph Corcoran was convicted in 1999 of murdering his brother, James Corcoran, 30; his sister’s fiance, Robert Scott Turner, 32; Timothy G. Bricker, 30; and Douglas A. Stillwell, 30; in July 1997. He is currently the only person sitting on death row after being sentenced in Allen County for a case that occurred here.

Indiana reinstated the death penalty in 1977.