Jury Finds Defendant Guilty of Second-Degree Murder 

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On Oct. 3, a jury found a murder defendant guilty of second-degree murder.

On July 24, 2020, 57-year-old Darnell Sterling was arrested and charged with murdering his 34-year-old girlfriend, Olga Ooro and violating a stay away order in connection. Sterling was the last known person to see Ooro before she was reported missing on July 17, 2020. Her body has still not been located.

While jury deliberations took place, DC Superior Court Judge Maribeth Raffinan reviewed Sterling’s motion for acquittal. She denied the motion.

When making her decision, Judge Raffinan considered whether there was sufficient evidence that Ooro was in fact dead, that Sterling was connected to Ooro’s death, and that Sterling was in a culpable mental state when he murdered Ooro.

Judge Raffinan concluded that Ooro was in fact dead based on the fact that she was last seen through surveillance footage as being inside her apartment with Sterling and her son on July 17, 2020. There are no recordings nor witness reports of her ever being spotted since then.

Judge Raffinan highlighted several key pieces of evidence to establish a connection between Sterling and Ooro’s death, including contradictory statements to police regarding when and where Sterling said he was last with Ooro and a spot of Ooro’s blood found in her apartment. 

She also referenced footage that showed Sterling leaving Ooro’s apartment building, the night after she was last seen, carrying a black garbage bag that may have held incriminating crime scene objects. In addition, footage shows him returning the following day, wheeling a blanket-covered cart that presumably concealed Ooro’s dead body.

Based on the combined weight of this circumstantial and forensic evidence, Judge Raffinan concluded that there was sufficient evidence linking Sterling to Ooro’s death.

Judge Raffinan determined that Sterling displayed a culpable mental state and motive when he allegedly murdered Ooro. In April 2019, Ooro reported Sterling for acts of domestic violence, bearing a busted lip and injured knees. A neighbor had witnessed Sterling assaulting and shouting at the victim. 

This report developed into a domestic violence case. When Ooro disappeared, a status hearing had been scheduled for the following week, July 22, 2020.

Judge Raffinan declared it reasonable to presume that Sterling was attempting to avoid incarceration for this case, indicating his potential motive for murdering Ooro.

Upon return, the jury mirrored Judge Raffinan’s stance. They found Sterling guilty of second-degree murder and content.

Sterling is currently being held at the DC Jail without bond. A sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2023.

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