Teen ex-girlfriend seeks juvenile court in Chanceford Twp. homicide of Stefen Simmons
Experts disagree about whether a young woman accused in the Chanceford Township ambush robbery and homicide of her ex-boyfriend should stand trial in adult court or have her case moved to juvenile court.
Now 19, Da'Zanie Gibson was about six weeks shy of her 18th birthday when Stefen Simmons was killed as he resisted being robbed, allegedly by Tysheem Santiago, Gibson's apparent boyfriend at the time.
Simmons, 20, died of a gunshot wound to the chest about 11:40 p.m. Jan. 6, 2019, while in the first block of Oriole Circle, not far from his home, state police have said.
Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook will determine whether Gibson's case will be moved to juvenile court. Gibson is currently charged as an adult with first-degree murder, robbery and criminal conspiracy, as are her two co-defendants.
The first part of Gibson's juvenile decertification hearing was held Thursday afternoon, after which Cook scheduled a date of Sept. 23 for the conclusion of the matter because the business day ended before senior deputy prosecutors Lewis Reagan and Jennifer Tobias were able to call all their witnesses.
Reagan said he expects to call family members of Simmons. Part of what the judge must consider is the affect of Simmons' homicide on the community, including his family.
On Thursday, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Larry Rotenberg, testifying for the prosecution, and the defense's clinical and forensic psychologist, Amy Taylor, agreed that Gibson's childhood was one of neglect and exploitation, according to the young woman's account.
'Neglect and trauma': Gibson's family moved frequently while living in Maryland, including to a place where they slept in one room and had no heat, and moved to the Red Lion area when she was in eighth or ninth grade. Her parents were absent for long periods in her life, Taylor said during questioning by defense attorney Korey Leslie.
"Da'Zanie's life has essentially been marked by neglect and trauma," Taylor testified. "She really doesn't know anything different."
Her parents started making her care for her three younger siblings when she was 9 years old, including making sure they were fed and going to school, according to Taylor.
"She was essentially the parent ... forced to assume adult behaviors," said Taylor, who diagnosed Gibson with post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, unspecified depressive disorder and borderline traits of a personality disorder.
Gibson has told police and Taylor she didn't know Simmons would be shot.
"She expressed remorse and shame, and sort of a level of disbelief," Taylor said, adding she believes Gibson could be rehabilitated in a secure juvenile facility by the time state juvenile law would require her release in February 2022, when she turns 21.
Remorseful? But Rotenberg said his evaluation of Gibson makes him question whether she has real remorse for Simmons' homicide and noted Gibson didn't try to call 911 or get help for the dying man.
"She said that, frankly, at the time she wasn't thinking of his troubles. She was thinking of her own troubles," the doctor said.
He said she minimizes her own responsibility in the homicide case and in past incidents where she has been adjudicated delinquent for thefts.
"It's as if she had nothing to do with it, or had no other choices," Rotenberg said, adding Gibson does what she wants to do when she wants to do it, then blames others for her poor choices.
"The bottom line ... is there's no way this young woman by February of 2022 is going to be rehabilitated," he said, adding that it's his recommendation she be tried as an adult.
The homicide: According to state police, Gibson, Santiago and Gibson's older brother, Montrice Gibson, schemed to rob Simmons, who posted on social media that he was looking to party and posted photos of himself holding cash and jewelry.
By that time, he and Da'Zanie Gibson had broken up, but he and Montrice Gibson, who met in prison, were still supposed to be friends, according to testimony from the trio's preliminary hearing.
They contacted Simmons and told him they would pick him up, police said.
Once in the victim's neighborhood, Da'Zanie drove past Simmons and his younger brother, who were outside waiting, and dropped off Santiago down the street, according to police.
She then doubled back, picked up the Simmons brothers, drove to where Santiago was lying in wait and stopped the car, police allege. She then rolled down the passenger-side window where her ex was sitting, police said.
Victim, shooter injured: That's when a gun-wielding Santiago approached the victim and tried to rob him, but Simmons resisted and both men were shot during the struggle, police said.
Once in custody, the Gibsons and Santiago all blamed each other, according to court documents. Montrice Gibson, 27, maintains it was his "evil sister" who concocted the entire plan, according to his defense attorney, Farley Holt.
Taylor testified Thursday that Da'Zanie Gibson looked at her older brother as a father figure and would do anything for his approval and love.
Da'Zanie Gibson said Montrice Gibson directed her actions, saying, "He's always in charge, from day one," Taylor said.
Santiago, 20, suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his upper left shoulder during the struggle, according to state police, and tossed the gun used to kill Simmons out the car window as the trio drove back to York City afterward.
The gun has not been found, police said.
Santiago's defense attorney, Suzanne Smith, said her client didn't anticipate or intend for Simmons to be shot, and he is remorseful.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.