By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
A Keizer man has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years after pleading guilty to stabbing another man after his car crashed into a tree.
Darnell Harris, 37, was sentenced by Judge Tracy Prall for the murder of 32-year-old Andrew Ramon in Salem in November 2016.
Salem police officers responded to a report of a single vehicle crash into a tree at the intersection of Liberty Street Southeast and Superior Street Southeast in Salem about 1:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Officers found a Chevrolet Trail Blazer that had run into a tree and found Ramon deceased inside.
An autopsy revealed that Ramon had died from multiple stab wounds and not the result of the crash. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident found that Ramon had been involved in an altercation with Harris hours before the crash. Harris was arrested three days later.
Court records show that Harris threatened potential witnesses on the day of the murder, but those charges were dropped as a result of Harris’ guilty plea. However, in January 2017, Harris was indicted for soliciting another inmate at the Marion County jail to kill a witness who testified in front of a grand jury regarding Ramon’s death. Harris was convicted of solicitation of murder and tampering with a witness in connection with the jailhouse incident. He received sentences of 9 years and four months and 13 months, respectively, on the latter charges.
Prior to sentencing, Harris’ attorney filed a memorandum to the court asking for leniency and shedding some light into Harris’ background.
Harris is the father of a 19-month-old child and graduate of McKay High School who joined U.S. Marines shortly after receiving his diploma. He was injured during military training and left the Corps in May 2011. A severe bout of depression followed.
He eventually found a job in a group home working with abused children and was working there when he was arrested. He continued to struggle with depression and self-medicated with “alcohol and drugs, primarily large doses of Xanax and marijuana.”
While his arrest put an end to his drug and alcohol abuse the memo claims “still not fully thinking” when he asked his cellmate to kill a witness.
While in jail, Harris received a mental health evaluation and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder.
“Like everyone else he should not be defined by his biggest mistakes. In the words of Oscar Wilde: “Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future,” the memo concludes.
Harris will be 63 years old before he is eligible for parole.