Three teenagers have been arrested and charged with the murder of Donnie Smith, a 53-year-old father of three, following a brutal assault that took place outside a Kroger supermarket.
In the wake of the senseless violence, the Columbus Police Department announced the detention of three young individuals identified as Dionta Davon Hughes, 18; Jamarion Fredrae Evans-Bennett, 19; and a 17-year-old Jayden Agee, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
At the court hearing on Thursday, the 17-year-old suspect chose not to appear, but his family attended in his stead. His mother, showing visible emotion during the proceedings, made a brief statement, according to NBC4i.
“This situation is deeply serious and troubling, and I am truly heartbroken. My sincerest apologies go out to the victim’s family and all those affected. I request for my son to be allowed home with an ankle monitor,” she expressed.
The defense argued for the teenager’s release into his family’s care, while the prosecution countered, citing safety concerns.
Magistrate Woodrow Hudson, addressing the severity of the charges, decided against the release of the minor. “In light of the grave allegations, I cannot approve his release from the juvenile intervention center. He will remain here until the probable cause hearing,” he declared.
Hughes and Evans-Bennett are being detained under a $1 million bond.
The attack, which occurred on December 6, resulted in Smith succumbing to severe head injuries two weeks afterward.
Police reports obtained by WSXY indicate that “Three men engaged in an altercation with patrons inside the location. As a result, the suspects were asked to leave by security. Once outside, a physical altercation ensued between three males and the victim.”
The affidavit included in the court documents reveals that officers examined security footage of the assault, which showed Hughes, Evans-Bennett, and Agee following Smith Jr. as he left the Kroger store. The video evidence captured the moment the three suspects abruptly knocked Smith Jr. to the ground and then proceeded to kick and punch him, according to the records.
Witnesses to the event recount that the teens were “laughing and enjoying themselves” as they dealt merciless blows to the man, ceasing only when an armed witness intervened to put an immediate halt to the assault.
According to police, the three suspects left the scene in a red vehicle.
Following the death of Smith, the charges against the three individuals were escalated from felonious assault to murder. Additionally, the case was reassigned from the robbery unit to homicide detectives for further investigation.
“Donnie was an amazing person,” said Nicole Evans, as she described her partner of 20 years and the father of her 15-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. “He was a great father, he loved his kids, they were his world.”
Evans says Smith was grocery shopping with friends when the incident happened.
“They just grabbed him and beat him to death,” said Evans. “It was a random act of violence.”
“It sickening,” said Evans, “I don’t know how anyone could do that to a human being.”
As the community reels from the attack, a GoFundMe page has been set up to support Smith’s children moving forward.
From the fundraising page:
“Donnie Smith was brutally attacked by a group of men at Kroger… He was injured so severely that he had to undergo brain surgery. Despite doctors efforts to save his life, Donnie did not make it. He had no insurance, leaving the cost for funeral services to Nicole. He also left behind their two young children, just a week before Christmas. Any amount of help will be greatly appreciated during this hard time for his family.”