Man formally sentenced to life in prison for 1982 murder | NevadaAppeal.com

Man formally sentenced to life in prison for 1982 murder

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

A judge Monday morning sentenced a Trinidad man to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1982 rape and murder of a Douglas County teen.

Carson City District Judge Todd Russell additionally sentenced David Winfield Mitchell, 61, to a consecutive eight to 10 years in prison for using a deadly weapon, a ligature, to strangle Sheila Jo Harris in her east Carson City apartment, a complex where he worked as a handyman.

Mitchell shook his head when asked if he wished to say anything on his own behalf.

Russell also ordered Mitchell to pay $675 in court and attorney fees, and $8,672 for his extradition from Trinidad. He was given credit for serving 448 days in jail.

A jury found Mitchell guilty of the January 1982 beating, rape and strangulation death of Harris, 18. The jury also determined Mitchell should spend the rest of his life in prison without parole, with which the judge agreed at Monday’s formal sentencing.

Mitchell was a suspect from the start. He was arrested once before in the case, but was released when prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence to go forward to trial.

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In 1999, a DNA comparison of semen found on Harris’ body and clothing against blood and saliva taken from Mitchell came back as a match. DNA technology was not available in 1982.

He was arrested in August 2006 on a Carson City murder warrant by international police in Mount Hope, on the island of Trinidad and Tobago, where he worked as a night watchman for a government agency.

“This has really been a case that has just haunted the entire Northern Nevada and Carson City community and it’s time that this matter finally be brought to justice,” said Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner. “One thing I’ve never heard, and don’t expect to hear, is any show of remorse or even conscience from the defendant for what he did. I wonder, when you’re a person of this nature – a sociopath that rapes and murders a woman – do you even think of the consequences of what you’ve done to that victim or to the family? I doubt Mr. Mitchell does. Certainly he doesn’t seem to care about the impact that he’s had.”

Defense Attorney Diane Crow asked the judge to consider a sentence of life with parole. If the judge had obliged, Mitchell would have been eligible for parole after 10 years.

“Mr. Mitchell, as he sits here today, is not the same man as he was in the ’70s and ’80s,” she said, noting he hadn’t been in trouble in 25 years and owned his home in Haiti where he lived with his daughter and grandson. “He understands that a life sentence is mandatory. He asks for consideration for the change in the man that he is.”

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.