20-year-old pleads guilty in 2008 death of Florence teen

Donovan Alexis Roman (Source: Florence Police Department)
Donovan Alexis Roman (Source: Florence Police Department)
Zachary Navarre Morgan
Zachary Navarre Morgan
A. James Woye
A. James Woye

Florence, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A 20-year-old who pleaded guilty to murder charges Wednesday in the 2008 death of a Florence teen has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Donovan Alexis Roman, 20, of Florence, is one of three people criminally connected to the death of 17-year-old Jeremiah Jenkins, who was last seen on Aug. 6, 2008.

The teenager's body was found in a vacant building on Irby Street in Florence on Aug. 30, 2008.  An autopsy performed at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston revealed Jenkins died as a result of homicide violence, specifically from stab wounds and blunt force trauma to the head.

Roman was arrested after the autopsy positively identified Jenkins.

"I think this is an appropriate sentence," said 12th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements. "There's nothing we can do to bring Jeremiah back. My heart breaks for his family. My heart breaks for Mr. Roman's family and the co-defendants families. He destroyed the hopes and dreams of many, many families with this senseless act."

Clements asked Judge Michael Nettles for the maximum sentence of life in prison. Clements believes the 20-year-old created a scenario in his head in which he was part of a gang-like underground agency.

It is believed Roman convinced A. James Woye, 17, and Zachary Navarre Morgan, both of Florence, to participate in the murder of Jenkins as a way to gain status in the agency.

"This was completely senseless," Clements said. "It was a horrible act to feed a fantasy, a fantasy life, a tale he concocted to influence other young men and the manipulate them, and it was just horrendous."

Investigators also spoke at the plea hearing to ask for a sentence of life in prison. They described the gruesome nature of the stabbing and beating of Jenkins.

Family members of Jenkins also spoke during the hearing and asked Judge Nettles for the maximum sentence. His mother said he was looking forward to his senior year of high school, and he was planning to attend Coastal Carolina University.

"Life was the ultimate sentence," Clements explained. "To be able to get that result without a trial was an outstanding job by the city police and the solicitor's office, and the family is so grateful."

Several people supporting Roman also sat in the courtroom. Roman's mother asked Judge Nettles for compassion, saying she knew he had mental problems since 2006, and she had tried to get him help. She said what her son did was terrible, and although it was not insanity, she said her son needs ongoing mental health help.

Nettles decided on the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Both Woye and Morgan have been connected and charged to the death of Jenkins by investigators with the Florence Police Department. Their cases are still pending.

Investigators believe Roman persuaded Woye to stab Jenkins at the vacant building on Irby Street. They say after the stabbing Roman beat Jenkins in the head. They believe Morgan was there and participated in the murder.

Jenkins was originally reported as missing 48-hours after he was last seen by a family member. His mother told police her son went to another house in their neighborhood, and he was not seen after that.

During their investigation, police were told Jenkins was taken to the Ramada Inn at 3311 Meadors Road in Florence by a neighbor. It was at that location, according to the story, where he entered a burgundy car. Jenkins was reported missing 48-hours later.

Investigators eventually ruled that story to be untrue. Instead, it was determined Jenkins was taken to a vacant building at 521 Irby St. in Florence, where he was murdered.

Investigators were tipped to the location after an anonymous caller informed police to check out a vacant building on the corner of Irby and Cedar Streets for a body.

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