Chicago man gets 105-year sentence for murdering 14-year-old girl

A Chicago man has been convicted of the 2019 execution-style murder of a 14-year-old girl.

Deonlashawn Simmons, 36, will serve 105 years behind bars for the shooting death of Takaylah Tribitt, a Lake County judge ruled Thursday. According to The Northwest Indiana EraTribitt was found face down in a litter-filled alley in Gary, Indiana on September 16, 2019.

The victim was tied down with automotive cords wrapped around his neck and hands, which were tied behind his back, according to the Times. She was shot in the head at close range.

A Lake County Medical Examiner determined later she was most likely murdered three to four days before her body was discovered.

“She was dumped in an alleyway among the accumulating trash,” said Lake Criminal Court judge Natalie Bokota. “She was thrown away like trash.”

Simmons allegedly met Tribitt – a runaway teen from Chicago – at a birthday party less than a week before the murder, according to Cincinnati Local 12. She had been sexually assaulted on multiple occasions, authorities said.

Simmons, however, has not been charged with any sex crimes related to Tribitt’s case, according to the Times.

Simmons, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest in November 2020, admitted to meeting Tribitt on September 8, 2019, but claimed he was only trying to help the teenager.

On Sept. 13, a day after she was last seen, Tribitt texted a friend to say she was with a “Deon LaShawn,” according to court records obtained by the NWI times. She was reported missing from a Chicago homeless shelter shortly before her murder.

Simmons became a suspect when DNA from Tribitt’s affair linked him to the murder, according to the NWI Times. Investigators also found social media posts between Simmons and Tribitt in the days leading up to Tribitt’s death.

Investigators found a credit card issued to someone with the defendant’s last name, noting that Simmons’ family lived near the crime scene.

Records showed Tribitt’s last Facebook login was around 8:30 p.m. on September 13, 2019, according to the NWI Times. Its last known location was near Simmons’ parents’ house at 1:27 a.m. the next morning.

Just three minutes later, Simmons deactivated his Facebook account.

When questioned by detectives, Simmons denied having any sexual contact with the victim, saying he knew a relationship with the teenager “was going to be a problem” because of her age. Simmons said he helped Tribitt by taking him on walks and buying him food, but Tribitt ran away following an argument on September 13.

Simmons also said he heard about Tribitt’s murder “on the same day (expletive)” in the news, although the story was not published until the following day. Simmons told authorities he had not returned to Indiana since 2017, despite phone records placing him in the neighborhood of his loved ones’ home in Indiana on Nov. 14, 2019, just a few miles from the crime scene.

Simmons later changed her story and confessed to being in Gary, Indiana on September 13, 2019; he said and paid a woman to have sex at a local truck stop, according to the NWI Times.

A Lake County jury convicted Simmons in March of murder, with enhancements for firearms and repeat offenders.

“She spent six days with Deon Simmons,” Lake County Assistant District Attorney Douglas Shaw said. “And then she was dead.”

According to the Times, Simmons was on parole at the time of Tribitt’s murder, with five felony convictions to his credit, including promoting prostitution.

Simmons’ defense attorney, Michael A. Campbell, asked the judge for leniency, citing the fact that the defendant grew up without a father and had a brother who had been murdered several years earlier, according to the Times. Campbell asked for a 56-year sentence with five years probation.

Shaw said he would have asked for more than 105 years in prison, had he been allowed.

“He’s a person who can never be set free,” Shaw said. “I don’t want a 95-year-old Deonlashawn Simmons on the street. I don’t trust that.

Tribitt’s mother was also in court when the judge handed down his sentence.

“She was 14,” Laura Tribitt said after Thursday’s sentencing. “He was a baby. I don’t want to say more. I don’t really want to watch him.

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