Rachel Dissell, Joe Guillen and Gabriel Baird, Plain Dealer (Cleveland), August 7, 2007
Four teens accused of joy riding in a stolen car that struck and killed a suburban seamstress were portrayed by law enforcement as stony thugs.
Prosecutors said they showed “absolutely no remorse” and joked after their arrests.
But Monday, a different picture emerged of the quartet of boys with “D” names: Dontez, Durraymus, Davonta and Devonte. In Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, they sat with slumped shoulders and solemn faces as a prosecutor described how Virginia DiGiorgio was killed Saturday evening as she walked across Prospect Avenue.
Dontez Hairston, the 13-year-old who authorities say led police on a chase, had tears streaming down his cheeks as Assistant County Prosecutor James Wyman told a magistrate, “This is the young man who drove the car, who killed the woman.”
The 14-year-old passengers—Davonta McIntyre, Davonte Johnson and Durraymus Gillis—are charged with involuntary manslaughter and receiving stolen property. Dontez is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and related charges.
All four teenagers denied the charges—a formality—and will remain in the detention center. None had juvenile records.
Chief Juvenile Public Defender Sam Amata said the rough detention center environment forces the teens to act tough.
Davonte’s seventh-grade homeroom teacher said she was shocked to learn her former student, who was student of the month in her class last winter, was involved.
“Davonte was basically a good kid,” said Phyllis Kairis.
Davonte was in an after-school basketball program that required average grades and acceptable behavior, Kairis said.
“At our school, we really never had any hoodlums,” she said. “They talked out and they used profanity and they weren’t always motivated, but they weren’t bad kids.”
DiGiorgio’s family gathered on Monday, receiving visitors and phone calls. Joseph DiGiorgio said he and his wife often went to productions at Playhouse Square, which is where they were headed on Saturday night.
Many of the visitors were area police officers and firefighters, who remembered her fondly as the seamstress who sewed the patches on their shirts.