Domestic violence victim Rekiah O’Donnell was killed by her partner. But Rekiah’s family believe the perpetrator “got away with murder” because of a troubling legal loophole.
Warning: this item deals with domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.
Rekiah O’Donnell was just 22 years old when a bullet brought her life to an abrupt halt.
But the abusive thug who shot her in the head, Nelson Lai, wasn’t found guilty of murder.
Instead, 35-year-old Lai was found guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter — despite shocking evidence showing he had violently abused Rekiah for years, and despite the fact that he’d texted her “I’ll kill you, rat” prior to the October 11, 2013 killing.
During his trial, Lai’s lawyers claimed the Sunshine man had been ‘coming down’ from the drug ice when he picked up a gun and pulled the trigger. Lai said he was minding the weapon for a friend, and didn’t know it was loaded.
It was excuse enough for a court to downgrade Lai’s conviction from murder to manslaughter — and that surprising verdict, delivered on 13 May, has left Rekiah’s family reeling. Now, they’re demanding change.
“Any amount of time (in jail) will never be enough, of course,” Rekiah’s brother Jesse O’Donnell told Mamamia of Lai’s sentence. “We were obviously hoping for a murder conviction which could have been anywhere up to a mid-3o range.”
Of the sentence Lai now faces — which could be as short as mere years — Jesse says: “Who knows what else he could do when he comes out?”
Jesse has “no single doubt” in his mind that Lai killed the young women intentionally.