ST. CLOUD — A Stearns County judge on Monday sentenced a 25-year-old St. Cloud man to life in prison for his involvement in the 2021 murder of a central Minnesota woman who was shot in the head and left on the side of the road.
After hearing statements from 10 people close to 25-year-old Keisa M. Lange, who was found dead the morning of June 3, 2021, Judge Sarah Hennesy ordered DeAntae D. Davis to serve life without the possibility of release. She also ordered him to pay restitution to the family using his future prison earnings, the amount of which has not yet been determined.
"I was not given the opportunity to be with my daughter when she took her last breath," said Janna Meyer, Lange's mother, during the sentencing. "It's a parent's worst nightmare that there is nothing I can do to help her and save her."
In April, a jury found Davis guilty on four felony counts, including premeditated first-degree murder. Davis waived his right to testify in the trial. When asked if he wanted to speak at the sentencing, he quietly said, "I have nothing to say, your honor."
Davis' attorney, Anthony St. Sauver, told the judge Davis plans to appeal the verdict.
At the sentencing, Lange's family and friends remembered her for her contagious laugh, kindness and willingness to help others. Meyer said losing her child in such a cruel manner and then fighting to get custody of Lange's three children has been daunting.
"Those children's lives have been torn apart," Meyer said.
Cara Johnson, Lange's aunt, said her family is strong but everyone's lives have been rattled.
"We are also sentenced to a lifetime of sorrow, pain and agony," Johnson said.
According to court documents, after Lange's body was discovered, investigators talked to witnesses who said they heard four or five gunshots that morning and saw a white four-door sedan driving north on Cooper Avenue.
Surveillance footage showed a white Ford Fusion entering a lot near where Lange was staying, and witnesses told police they saw Lange in the white car with Davis, Alicia M. Lewis, Kenneth J. Carter and Angela R. Jones, who were also charged in relation to the homicide.
The following day, police found the vehicle at Jones' residence with evidence of blood in the back seat, documents state. During the trial, a firearms expert said the bullets found at the scene couldn't be linked to a specific gun but were consistent with the model of gun found in Davis' car that had his fingerprints on it, documents state.
Last year, Lewis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding an offender. She is incarcerated and awaiting sentencing. In March, a Stearns County jury acquitted Carter on all charges related to Lange's death.
Jones, 35, pleaded guilty for her part in two homicides from 2021: Lange and 28-year-old Janesa Harris, who was found fatally shot in her St. Cloud apartment the day before Lange was murdered. The back-to-back homicides shocked officials and residents of St. Cloud, which has had on average just two homicides a year in the past decade.
During closing arguments at the trial, Stearns County Assistant Attorney Charles Gerlach reiterated Lewis' testimony that she was in the driver's seat on Cooper Avenue when she heard a loud bang, looked in the rearview mirror and saw smoke coming from Davis' gun. After Lange's body was dragged from the car, Carter shot a few rounds in her direction, Lewis said in her testimony.
Prosecutors didn't lay out an exact motive — they do not need to prove motive beyond a reasonable doubt per state law — but showed jurors texts that referenced Lange, which said she "talk too much" and possibly knew about the Harris murder, Gerlach said.
Before Davis was sentenced, assistant Stearns County Attorney Kurtis Young said it was the third time he had sat in a courtroom to prosecute Davis. According to the state court system, Davis previously was convicted of felonies for aiding and abetting assault, illegally possessing a firearm and burglary.
"There's something hollow about the court sentence today," Young said, noting no length of punishment will bring back Lange and heal her family. "Somehow [a life sentence] just doesn't seem like enough, and that's because this is a legal system and not a justice system."