Prosecutors Establish Timeline for Homicide in Jury Trial

In a Sept. 19 jury trial, the prosecution called witnesses to lay out a detailed account of how they said the defendant killed the victim.

On July 24, 2020, one week after the disappearance of his girlfriend 34-year-old Olga Ooro, Darnell Sterling was arrested and charged with her murder. Sterling, 57, was charged earlier in the year with allegedly assaulting Ooro. He gave conflicting accounts to the police in various interviews before his arrest. According to court documents, he was the last person to see Ooro before her disappearance. Ooro’s body has not been recovered, and no murder weapon has been identified.

Calling six witnesses to the stand on Monday, the prosecution attempted to fill in the gaps of the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) timeline.

The prosecution said Sterling killed Ooro on July 17, brought her body to his car on July 18, disposed of it in Maryland, and went out on July 19 with flyers for a missing person.

A trained police dog smelled human remains on the front passenger seat of Sterling’s car later that week. 

Monday, a witness said Sterling entered his restaurant carrying flyers and wearing a shirt with Ooro’s face and the word “missing.” Sterling was crying, the witness recalled, but agreed when the prosecutor that they were “crocodile tears.”

The prosecution recalled a witness who testified in the previous trial and knew Ooro. He said he never saw any altercations between her and Sterling. 

Ooro’s mother testified that she was called to her daughter’s apartment on July 18 on the 300 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW because Ooro’s son had been found unattended. When she made it to the apartment, the witness sat on the bed to catch her breath and noticed the sheets were missing.

“I didn’t put so much thought into it, I just thought she had done laundry, but there were no bedsheets on the mattress,” she recalled. “Just a comforter, and pillows, that’s it.”

The witness said she checked the laundry later on and saw both the washer and dryer were empty. 

Using a combination of floor plans, surveillance footage and an activity report for Ooro’s key fob, the apartment’s lease manager and the prosecution pieced together the nights of July 16 and July 17.

Ooro, her son and an unidentified man entered the apartment building late on the night of July 16. The three took an elevator to their floor, according to the lease manager who described events from the footage. Several hours later, only the man leaves. Then, at 1:38 a.m. on July 18, a man enters using Ooro’s key fob and carrying a cart. Ten minutes later, the footage shows that man with a human-sized object in the cart, which he struggles to pull. He has to open both exit doors to get the cart through, tapping Ooro’s fob again.

“It doesn’t get used after that day,” the witness said of the fob. “That’s the last day.”

A manager at a restaurant Ooro and Sterling frequented in 2020 testified that neither of the two had ever come in without the other more than once or twice, but that they’d eat there together weekly. He identified Sterling in court.

The witness said Sterling came in alone and talked to him about a recent argument he’d had with Ooro On July 18. He said Sterling told him, “the bitch took my phone.” 

“We’d never really had a conversation before, other than hi, hello, bye,” the witness said. “So I was like, what’s this about?”

The next day, the witness was approached at the restaurant by detectives who he said showed him photos of Ooro and Sterling and asked if he’d seen them. When Sterling returned later the same day, the witness recalled that he was crying, but it felt inauthentic.

When asked, the witness told defense attorney Howard McEachern that the police visit didn’t make him suspect Sterling at the time.

“I didn’t form an opinion when the officers came in and asked me about him,” the witness said. “I couldn’t have really cared less.”

The prosecution called two other witnesses, including Sterling’s neighbor and an analyst from Ooro’s cell phone company. The analyst explained Ooro’s call log from the week of July 17, 2020.

DC Superior Court Judge Maribeth Raffinan is presiding over the trial.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Sept. 20 with continued testimony from the cell phone company analyst.