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Man Sent to Prison for Life for
Murdering Actor Merlin Santana


February 25, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525


LOS ANGELES – A 21-year-old man convicted of the first-degree murder of actor Merlin Santana was sent to prison today for consecutive 25-year to life sentences, the District Attorney’s office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Greg Dohi said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler sentenced Damien Andre Gates to two 25-year-to-life terms, plus 20 years, plus another life sentence.  The sentences, to run consecutively, mean that it is unlikely the defendant ever will be paroled.

A jury in Fidler’s court earlier this month convicted Gates of first-degree murder and attempted murder.  The jury found that he used a rifle to commit the crimes.

A second defendant, Brandon Douglas Byrnes, 25,  has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon.  He is expected to be sentenced to a 23-year prison term by Judge Fidler on March 11.

Jury selection is under way in Fidler’s court for the final defendant, 17-year-old Monique King.  Like Gates and Byrnes, she is charged with one count each of murder and attempted murder.  Because she was 15 at the time the crime occurred, her case first went to juvenile court, where a judge found her unfit to be tried as a juvenile.  King turned 17 on Feb. 11.

Santana, 26, of North Hollywood, was shot in the head and killed as he and a friend were in a car leaving another man’s home in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles on Nov. 9, 2002.  The friend survived the attack.  Santana was a co-star of television’s “Steve Harvey Show.”

All three defendants were arrested shortly after the shooting and have remained in custody.

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