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Validated gang member sentenced to life in prison for Lexington County murder

Lexington, SC (04/13/2022) Paul Kirby - A 31-year-old Richland County man that law enforcement described as a validated gang member was convicted last week for a murder he committed in Lexington County on August 11, 2015. This crime took place at the River Oaks Apartment in the St. Andrews area of Lexington County. A Lexington County jury found that there was enough evidence against Leonard Mickens, Jr. to convict him for Murder of Donte Doyle who was 29 at the time. After the verdict was returned, Chief Administrative Judge Debra R. McCaslin sentenced Mickens to life in prison. He is not eligible for parole.

Following the trial, Solicitor Rick Hubbard remarked, “many of our communities are plagued with gang violence. Some of the most violent and heinous crimes that we prosecute are gang related. This conviction and sentence send a strong message to our communities that we will fully prosecute gang violence and that it will not be tolerated. This was a senseless killing and I am grateful for the hard work on the part of the prosecution team and law enforcement in bringing closure to this family.”

On August 11, 2015, Mickens shot and killed Donte Doyle at the River Oaks Apartments on Bush River Road. The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department responded and conducted the investigation of this case. They were assisted by the Midlands Gang Task Force that included investigators from the Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department who were familiar with Mickens and his gang. The investigation revealed that Mickens intended to kill a rival gang member, but inadvertently killed Donte who was standing outside of his apartment smoking a cigarette. Warrants for Mickens’ arrest were obtained in 2017 for this murder and ultimately served on Mickens a year later in 2018. At the time of his arrest, Mickens was in federal custody following a guilty plea. He was released from federal custody in 2020 and has been continuously incarcerated pending trial.

According to testimony given during the trial, around 4:30 p.m., on the afternoon of the Murder, Donte was shot at least five times. A forensic investigator testified that the fatal shot was consistent with the victim laying on the ground when he was killed.

At the time of the murder, eyewitnesses were able to provide law enforcement with a description of the shooter and the vehicle he was a passenger in. Those witnesses reported to law enforcement that the shooter was riding in a blue Ford Explorer. He was wearing a distinct, dark, bucket hat with emojis on it. Investigators recovered surveillance footage from the apartment complex that captured a black male wearing that style of hat walking near the building where the shooting occurred. Officers from Richland County familiar with Mickens testified that the individual in the grainy videos had a similar size and build as Mickens. The driver has never been identified.

During the course of the investigation, detectives discovered threatening video messages sent by Mickens to the intended victim approximately an hour and half prior to the shooting death of Donte in broad daylight. The videos Mickens recorded were filmed in the parking lot of the River Oaks apartment complex where that person’s mother resided. The shooting of Donte took place right outside of the apartment where the intended victim’s girlfriend resided. During this time, the person Mickens had originally targeted frequently resided with his girlfriend or spent the night with his mother.

During the investigation, law enforcement obtained Facebook records, phone records, and a cell phone associated with Mickens. Evidence from the phone was presented during the trial showed that Mickens sent messages providing his phone number to different individuals on Facebook. Cell phone data was then used to place this phone number associated with Mickens in the area of the shooting at the time of the murder. The threatening videos were also recovered from this phone. In these videos, Mickens was wearing the same bucket hat with emojis on it that witnesses to the shooting described. In addition, a photo located on Mickens’ phone showed him in the passenger seat of what appears to be a Ford Explorer less than two hours before the shooting.

The witnesses in this case were scared to testify but were compelled to because of they had been subpoenaed. The person Mickens first intended to kill, a rival gang member, was also compelled to testify. However, he was not cooperative during the trial and indicated that due to his lifestyle he could not answer any questions. After being instructed by the Judge that he had to answer the questions asked, he simply indicated either that he did not know the answer or could not recall the majority of the questions that were asked. He did admit to living at River Oaks during the time period and to seeing Donte the day of the shooting, but said that he did not know Donte. There was no indication that the intended victim and Donte really knew each other during this investigation. The intended victim did also admit to wearing red pants during this time period and seeing Donte wearing red pants that day.

Senior Assistant Solicitor Robby McNair and Assistant Solicitor Luke Pincelli handled the prosecution of this case. The prosecutors in this case explained to the jury that the victim was killed because he was “at the wrong place at the wrong time” and “happened to be wearing the wrong color pants.”

During sentencing, Senior Assistant Solicitor McNair requested the maximum sentence. He indicated to the Court that Leonard Mickens is a “violent and dangerous person.” The Court also watched a video that was not introduced during the trial that Mickens recorded the day after the shooting. In this video that was sent to the rival gang member he was supposed to have shot, Mickens appeared to boast about the shooting and indicated that he already had shot the that man on a prior occasion. He ended the video by saying “bang, bang.” It is believed that Mickens was referencing a prior drive-by shooting in Columbia five days earlier in which the intended victim was shot, but survived. The Court was also made aware of the fact that Mickens was one of the leaders of his gang that was responsible for several shootings in Columbia during this time frame and that the shell casings from the drive-by that occurred five days prior to this murder matched the casings recovered at River Oaks.

During sentencing, the victim’s sister expressed to the Court that her brother just found out that he was going to be a father for the first time and that this day changed the lives of two families. She further expressed that this was senseless and that kids were everywhere around the apartment complex during the time of the murder.

Mickens spoke during sentencing and expressed sympathy for the victim’s family, however, he did not admit guilt. Mickens did apologize to the rival gang member that the investigation revealed was the intended victim.

Mickens is currently being held in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center for a pending murder charge in Richland County. He will eventually be transported to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to serve his life sentence. Mickens has prior convictions for multiple illegal gun possessions both state and federal, burglary, tampering with electronic monitor, and receiving stolen goods.

PHOTO CAPTION L to R: Leonard Mickens, Jr. and Donte Doyle


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