Woman left in coma after being beaten by roommate, talks about her recovery
Byron Mitchell, a Miami personal trainer, claimed he acted in self-defense when he beat his female roommate so brutally that she was in a coma for nearly a month.
Jurors deliberated less than two hours in rejecting his claim, convicting him Tuesday of attempted murder and false imprisonment.
Prosecutors said Mitchell, 39, attacked Danielle Cabo Jones, who was 23 at the time, inside their Miami apartment on Feb. 14, 2016. The two met after Jones placed a Craigslist ad looking for a roommate. They were living together just over a week.
Mitchell claimed Jones attacked him with a knife, and he had to defend himself. He called 911 after slamming her head on the floor.
The crime scene was saturated in Jones’ blood, even on the walls. Mitchell was uninjured.
Jones, whose injuries included a broken skull, bruised brain and broken teeth, was in a coma for 24 days. When Jones woke up, she couldn’t remember the attack.
Prosecutors say Mitchell beat, choked and stabbed Jones after he became obsessed with her, and grew angry when she showed no interest in him.
“When this defendant — Byron Mitchell — did not get his valentine, he made a conscious decision to kill,” prosecutor Sara Imm told the jury on Tuesday during closing arguments.
The state’s evidence included Mitchell’s texts to his sister about whether he should date Jones. But there was more.
Imm propped up pages of Mitchell’s cellphone data and flipped through seven hours worth of Google searches for nude videos of Jones, which do not exist.
Prosecutors also pointed to Google searches about rohypnol (commonly known as a “date rape drug”) and melatonin, which he had in the apartment.
Jurors were also shown several graphic images of the apartment and Jones’ injuries: photos of a knife sitting in a pool of Jones’ blood, Mitchell’s bloody shirt and his hands, which he struggled to wash clean, Imm said. She also held up side-by-side photos of Jones before and after the attack: a normal selfie on the left and a bloody, swollen face on the right.
Khurrum Wahid, Mitchell’s defense attorney, argued there is no evidence to prove Mitchell planned the attack and intended to kill Jones. Instead, he’s the reason she received medical attention, the lawyer said.
“We cannot interpret rational thinking now to conduct in that moment,” Wahid said.
In the heat of the moment, Mitchell didn’t know what do to and reacted to protect himself, Wahid said. He played the 911 call Mitchell made for the jury one last time.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” he told the 911 operator three years ago. “My roommate attacked me with a knife in the bedroom.” He asked for an ambulance for Jones.
Prosecutors allege he was trying to save himself. Mitchell deleted Jones’ contact information, texts and calls from his phone and put Jones’ phone in water, Imm said. He took a shower and changed his clothes before police arrived.
Jones’ mother and stepfather, Aimee Cabo Nikolov and Boris Nikolov, sat in the courtroom pews to hear the verdict. Cabo Nikolov said she put trust in God, regardless of what the verdict was. Her family is working to bring Jones back to health after years of physical and speech therapy.
“Justice for me is not really putting this guy in jail so much as wanting to get my daughter back the way that she was before the brain injury,” she said. “But I’m grateful that justice has been served, and justice has been served for her.”
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.