'Absolute, 24-hour-a-day terror'

For at least two decades, serial stalker Dammon Haynes terrorized women.
He seemed unstoppable. Then someone stopped him.

By Erin Grace / World-Herald staff writer

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Dammon Haynes, a notorious domestic abuser. Pictured above is one of his victims, Latasha Edwards, in a portrait by Ryan Soderlin / The World-Herald.

Haynes' record

Dammon Haynes is a serial domestic abuser whose m.o. is more psychological than physical. He threatens, harasses and stalks victims.

80

Criminal charges, mostly related to domestic violence

27

Convictions that resulted in jail time

20

Victims of domestic violence, based on police reports and protection-order requests

Sitting in the prosecutor’s office, the victim stared at the conference table and could barely speak.

Her leg bounced up and down, up and down. Sometimes she cried.

LaTasha Edwards was beyond nervous. She was scared to death.

Julie Medina, who prosecutes some 2,000 domestic violence cases a year, could understand why.

Medina had done a little homework before their meeting. Edwards’ ex was no run-of-the-mill abuser.

Dammon Haynes was different. He was a stalker. He had a long history of ignoring protection orders, of calling, texting or otherwise harassing ex-girlfriends, even breaking into their homes.

“Do you really think locks are going to stop me?” Haynes once asked Edwards.
Edwards told Medina she wasn’t sure anything would stop him.

But Medina promised she would try.

Unstoppable

For years, Dammon Haynes was rather unstoppable.

He had been arrested plenty of times, charged plenty of times, and he even served jail time plenty of times, though usually just for short stints

But their complaints didn’t easily translate into criminal cases.

Sometimes there wasn’t enough evidence. Or victims backed out. Or Haynes — whose first name is pronounced DAY-men — could run out the clock. A misdemeanor-level charge expires six months after a warrant is issued. He could lie low until charges were dropped.


It got so she would enter her home with a knife in one hand and a cell phone in the other with 911 already dialed. All she had to do was press “call.”


Haynes' crimes, alleged and proven

Serial abuser Dammon Haynes has an m.o. When a girlfriend breaks up with him, he calls her repeatedly, leaves threatening messages, harasses her family and friends and opens credit cards or cellphones in her name to hurt her credit. But she has little recourse except to call police or get a protection order, neither of which guarantees her safety or an end to the behavior.

Here are examples of his behavior:

PERSISTENT CALLING; PERSISTENT THREATS

» He called the front desk at Creighton University’s Kiewit Hall 46 times one morning between 4 and 7 a.m. He told the desk clerk that a Columbine-like event was about to happen. “Did you see what happened in Colorado? The same thing is going to happen in Kiewit Hall Room 930 in one hour.” He called back to tell the clerk to “check Room 930 for one dead bitch.” (April 1999)

» He called an ex-girlfriend 40 times in about 40 hours, leaving voice-mail messages saying: “You better watch your back. I have six sisters and they will beat your ass. I will find you and kill you.” (2005)

» He called an ex-girlfriend more than 100 times and left messages saying: “Since you don’t want to be with me, whore, watch yourself out there. I got six sisters.” (2006)

» Another ex-girlfriend told police Haynes left 25 threatening voice mails, including: “Since you hurt me, I will have you beat up.” He called her slut, tramp and bitch. He told her: “You don’t know who you are f---ing with.” Two weeks later, she complained to police that he broke into her home twice, once through a rear window and then through the door, breaking the frame. (2007)

» He called the parents of ex-girlfriend Shondra Wayne. Michael Wayne told police he saved 15 voice-mail messages; Stephanie Wayne said she received 15 to 20 text messages. The gist was: Your daughter made my life miserable. Now I’m going to make your life miserable. (2009)

» He called LaTasha Edwards so many times there were at least 200 records of voice-mail and text messages. “He call (sic) my cellphone at all hours of the day/night back to back,” she said in her protection order. “He calls my job and hangs up if I don’t answer. He has stated that no matter how many times I change my phone number, he will get it.”

PERSISTENT SHOWING UP

» The friend of an ex-girlfriend complained to police that Haynes vandalized her car. She got a protection order against him. Then he popped up, walking in front of her once and standing by the swing set in her backyard another time. (2005)

» When one ex refused to open her apartment door to Haynes, he left a note on her car that said: “Watch your back.” (2006)

» Shondra Wayne called police when she heard glass breaking. She watched Haynes crawl through a window of her home, and she fled, calling 911. While she was giving a report to officers, he called her multiple times. She put the calls on speakerphone, and officers heard him threaten to kill her, blow up her vehicle and kill her child. (2009)

» Haynes broke into her home so often, police determined he had created a hideout in her attic and was watching her from there. Given food waste, they estimated he had been in her attic for a week without her knowing it. (2009)

» Haynes told LaTasha Edwards no lock could stop him. She changed her locks, but he still got in. Once she found him hiding in a closet. (2010)

MESSING WITH CREDIT

» He took out five credit cards in an ex’s name and told her he would ruin her credit. (2005)

» He took LaTasha Edwards’ information and had another girlfriend forge her name on more than $1,500 in checks at several stores, including Target, Hy-Vee, Baker’s and Nebraska Furniture Mart. (2011)

» Arranged from jail for a different girlfriend to use an ex’s bank card at an ATM and had the funds put into his jail commissary account. (2013-14)

PHYSICAL VIOLENCE

» One ex told police he threw an ashtray and lawn chair at her, grabbed her arm hard enough to leave bruises and pushed her to the ground twice. (2005)

» Another ex was taken by ambulance to the Nebraska Medical Center with a head injury. She told police Haynes had shown up at her home and broken a 22-ounce glass bottle over her head. (2006)

» Police document swelling, bruising and bite marks on another ex-girlfriend, who said Haynes “punched her in the face, threw her on the bed before biting her on the face and hand” after she told him to leave. (2008)

PRANKS

» Haynes particularly seemed to pick on one victim’s family. He called various entities from Child Protective Services to the Fire Department to Shondra Wayne’s north Omaha home and her parents’ Benson-area home. On one occasion, the Fire Department broke a window at her parents’ home in response to an anonymous “medical check” call. No one was home at the time. There was no emergency. The victim’s parents complained to police: “They were very frustrated and stated they have a protection order against him but don’t know what they can do because he keeps calling 911.” Officers “could not locate him.” (2009)

Once he was sentenced to 12 to 14 months in prison on a drug charge. But the most time Haynes had served for anything directly related to domestic violence was 30 days for violating a protection order.

That had changed in 2009, when he upped the ante with a former girlfriend named Shondra Wayne.

He broke into her house multiple times, once apparently hiding in her attic for a week before she figured it out.

It got so bad that she would enter her home with a knife in one hand and a cellphone in the other, with 911 already dialed. All she had to do was press “call.”

Haynes even tormented Wayne’s parents, who lived at a different address. He called them again and again and left threatening messages. They got protection orders against him. They called police.

Eventually the police reports relating to Shondra Wayne landed on Medina’s desk.

Wayne told her that Haynes had stolen her clothes and identification and buried some of it in the backyard. She told Medina how Haynes had cut up her personal photos. How he had her car towed from her job, and she had to hunt it down — something that took 10 days and an Omaha police officer to find. And how, in a chilling reminder he was always watching, he called her one day as she was leaving the house.

He told her to tie her son’s shoe. Wayne looked down. Sure enough, the child’s laces were undone.

Medina interviewed Wayne and looked at the evidence — the voice-mail threats to her and her parents, the text message threats, the break-ins. She thought this was a felony-level case, and because at the time she handled only misdemeanors, another prosecutor took it over.

Haynes eventually was convicted of misdemeanor stalking and was sentenced to a year in jail.

***

In the fall of 2009, LaTasha Edwards was a single mother of two with a full-time job at a health clinic and a house she owned.

She had known Dammon Haynes when they were kids and got reacquainted with him on a youth football field, where he was helping coach her son. Haynes told her he’d been in prison for drugs and that he now was getting his life straight. He didn’t mention the stalking conviction.

Edwards figured the youth league wouldn’t let just anyone coach. She went out with him and, before she knew it, he was telling her he loved her. He then basically moved in.

Edwards said he quickly turned jealous. He criticized her for dressing up for errands, and accused her of having other men on the side.

By April 2010, the relationship had frayed. In a protection order filed later, she said he pushed her into a door, hard, and forced her to bathe in front of him. Then he forced her to have sex with him, she said.

She kicked him out. He wouldn’t leave. He had put her address on his driver’s license, so when she called police, they took a look at his ID and said, “He lives here.” She changed her locks. He got in through windows. He kicked in the door.

Once inside, if she was gone, he’d clean up the house. He’d rearrange things. He’d write her nice cards. Relatives and friends told Edwards they wished someone would do that for them. But Edwards felt menaced.

One officer suggested she go to a domestic violence shelter. Edwards was outraged. This was her house. Another officer suggested Edwards issue a formal eviction notice. Edwards posted a sign on her home telling Haynes to get out.

She called police to report harassing phone calls, up to 30 a day. He said things like: I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to get my homies to beat up you and your daughter.

Edwards didn’t feel safe. She would take her two kids and go sleep at her mother’s home, her father’s place, motels. She even ditched that house for good and moved to an apartment, figuring it was better to let her house fall into foreclosure than to stay there and risk her life.

But even the new apartment wasn’t safe. Someone broke in. Twice.

Her job wasn’t a refuge, either. Haynes would call or show up at the clinic so much, it was a distraction. Edwards switched to a lower-paying, floating position that moved her around to various clinics so he never knew quite where she’d be.

Haynes found a way to hack into Edwards’ teenage daughter’s phone. He showed up at her son’s elementary school.

Once, he texted Edwards every minute for an hour. He texted: Come meet me.
One day she arrived home and found him hiding in her closet. She called police. Haynes ran.

***

In June 2010, a police report landed on Medina’s desk in her cramped, windowless office at the Douglas County Courthouse. It was marked “domestic violence” by a police detective, but the report said little — just that a man had been found hiding in a woman’s closet and had fled from police.

He had been charged with obstructing justice.
Medina looked at the report. She had no idea who LaTasha Edwards was.

But Dammon Haynes ...

She remembered the case from the year before involving Shondra Wayne.
Medina then did three things. She charged Haynes with the first thing she could think of: violating a protection order. She sought an arrest warrant. And she called Edwards and asked her to come in.

***

After their meeting, Edwards went home with some hope. And Medina went to work.

She tapped a veteran investigator named Charlie Venditte, a retired Omaha police sergeant who had headed the city’s first domestic violence unit and now works for the Douglas County Attorney’s Office.

The more Medina and Venditte dug into Haynes’ past, the more they found other victims. Some had been too scared to pursue court action, and one still refused to cooperate, saying she didn’t want to open up that can of worms. One victim said Haynes had broken a beer bottle over her head. One alleged that he beat her constantly — one time so badly that she miscarried. Medina and Venditte had never seen an abuser like him before.

Medina decided she had to try to stop Haynes for good. She issued a felony warrant against Haynes for stalking Edwards.

On June 18, 2010, Haynes was arrested. He was convicted on two violations of protection order and sentenced to nearly a year in jail. Then he was convicted on the felony stalking charge and for that received the maximum sentence — 20 to 60 months — although it was cut in half by the good-time law.

A portrait photo of Latasha Edwards, a victim of Haynes. Haynes got the book thrown at him -- 22-year minimum prison sentence. Edwards was one of his many victims. She suffered greatly. Lost her house to foreclosure (he kept breaking in, police could not ever catch him), had to take a different job at less money (he harassed her at her workplace) and even was a risk to her children, showing up at her son's school once to pick him up and taunting her adult daughter. Photo by Ryan Soderlin / The World-Herald.

Deputy Douglas County Attorney Julie Medina, photographed at the Douglas County Courthouse on Jan. 7. Photo by Kent Sievers / The World-Herald

Charles Venditte, criminal investigator for the Douglas County Attorney's office, photographed at the Douglas County Courthouse Jan. 7. Photo by Kent Sievers / The World-Herald.

Even with Haynes behind bars, Edwards didn’t feel safe.

Haynes called her from jail. Over and over.

She started getting anonymous threatening letters.

Adding insult to injury, Edwards was getting letters from Nebraska Furniture Mart, which said she owed money for bouncing a check. But she hadn’t shopped there.
Edwards called Medina. It took a while, but Medina figured out that Haynes was behind the bounced check. And while this was yet another headache for Edwards, it represented a powerful tool in getting Haynes locked up for a long time.

Here’s why:

Medina and Venditte had discovered that Haynes, even while behind bars, was conspiring with a new girlfriend to get back at Edwards. A year earlier he had stolen Edwards’ gym bag containing an old ID, which the new girlfriend was using on a shopping spree. An experienced forger, the woman had created checks in Edwards’ name and was spending them at stores like Target, Hy-Vee, Baker’s and the Mart.

When the combined value of those phony checks topped $1,500, Medina celebrated. Felony!

Medina realized the new crime would let her play the long game with Haynes. If he were convicted of three felonies of a certain type — three strikes — he could someday be charged as a habitual criminal, which guarantees at least a 10-year penalty with no good time.

Strike one had been the 2006 drug conviction.

The felony stalking from 2010 didn’t count as his second strike, because it didn’t fall into the right class of crimes under the habitual criminal law.

But felony burglary did. Medina charged Haynes with burglary, identity theft and forgery. He pleaded guilty to the first two charges and Medina dropped the third. A judge sentenced him to a year in prison.

Strike two.


“Stalking — it’s so hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it,” Medina said. “It’s a level of fear (most people) never, ever understand. ‘I can get you here. I can get you there.’ It’s absolute, 24-hour-a-day terror.”


Timeline of crimes

Dammon Haynes has had many formal contacts with the criminal justice system. Some charges led to convictions. Others were dismissed for various reasons: reluctant witnesses; lack of evidence; misdemeanor charges that expired before police could find him; plea agreements; or other factors. Dates are when the alleged crimes occurred.

  • 1994
    October 10
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    Fine
    » Assault and battery
    Guilty
    15 days in jail
    1996
    June 19
    » Carry a concealed weapon
    Guilty
    $75 fine
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    $75 fine
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Possession of an unregistered firearm
    Guilty
    $50 fine
    14 days in jail
    » Possession of a concealable firearm by someone under age 21
    Dropped/dismissed

  • 1997
    March 30
    » Carry a concealed weapon
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Possession of an unregistered firearm
    Dropped/dismissed
    1998
    April 16
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    Two days in jail
    » Liquor, open container
    Guilty
    Two days in jail
    1999
    February 27
    » Assault and battery
    Guilty
    Nine months’ probation
    April 9
    » Disorderly conduct
    Guilty
    Three days in jail
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    Three days in jail
    May 1
    » Violation of protection order
    Guilty
    30 days in jail
    » Criminal trespass
    Guilty
    30 days in jail
    » Assault, third degree
    Dropped/dismissed
    May 14
    » Violation of protection order
    30 days in jail

  • 2003
    April 30
    » Operate a motor vehicle to avoid arrest
    Guilty
    45 days in jail
    Revoked driver’s license
    » Willful reckless driving
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Driving under a suspended license
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Leaving an accident, failing to furnish information
    Guilty
    45 days in jail
    » Violating a stop sign
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Disobeying stoplights
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Wrong way on one way
    Dropped/dismissed
    October 1
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    1 day in jail
    » Disorderly conduct
    Dropped/dismissed
    2004
    February 10
    » Damage to property under $100
    Guilty
    Four days in jail
    $250 fine
    » Harassment, repeated anonymous calls
    Guilty
    Four days in jail
    $250

  • 2005
    August 18
    » Violation of protection order
    Guilty
    30 days
    December 26
    » Burglary (felony)
    Dropped/dismissed
    2006
    April 25
    » Possession with intent to deliver an exceptionally hazardous drug (felony)
    Guilty
    12 to 14 months
    July 23
    » Domestic assault, third degree
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Disturbing the peace
    Dropped/dismissed
    August 7
    » Damage to property less than $100
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Disorderly conduct
    Dropped/dismissed
    2007
    March 22
    » Assault and battery
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Trespassing
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Damage to property under $100
    Dropped/dismissed
    2008
    February 16
    » Domestic assault, third degree
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Disturbing the peace
    Dropped/dismissed

  • 2009
    February 22
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    Probation revoked
    80 days in jail
    March 9
    » Domestic assault, third degree
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Disturbing the peace
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Criminal trespassing
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Intimidation by phone call
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Criminal mischief
    Dropped/dismissed
    April 9
    » Stalking
    Guilty
    One year in jail
    April 28
    » Violation of protection order
    Guilty
    60 days in jail
    May 21
    » Violation of protection order
    Guilty
    60 days in jail
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    July 7
    » Theft of services under $200
    Guilty
    Probation six months
    2 days in jail

  • 2010
    February 8
    » Obstruct administration of the law
    Guilty
    1 day in jail
    April 28
    » Stalking (felony)
    Guilty
    20 to 60 months in jail
    » Terroristic threats (felony)
    Dismissed
    May 25
    » Violation of protection order
    Guilty
    360 days in jail
    May 28
    » Burglary (felony)
    Guilty
    One year in jail
    » Identity theft (felony)
    Guilty
    One year in jail
    June 25
    » Forgery (felony)
    Dropped/dismissed

  • 2014
    January 22
    » Domestic assault, third degree
    Dropped/dismissed
    Criminal mischief under $200
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Stalking (felony)
    Guilty
    12 to 24 years in prison
    On appeal
    January 27
    » Terroristic threats (felony)
    Guilty
    12 to 24 years in prison
    On appeal
    February 4
    » Possession of a controlled substance (felony)
    Dropped/dismissed
    February 28
    » Tampering with a witness (felony)
    Guilty
    12 to 24 years in prison
    On appeal
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed
    » Violation of protection order
    Dropped/dismissed

During incarceration, Haynes met someone new. Her name was Sharyce Smith. She, too, was in the state prison system, serving time on felony robbery and gun convictions. Haynes and Smith were both on work release in Omaha.

Haynes wooed her. Smith got pregnant.

When they finished their sentences in 2013, they lived together for a short time. But Haynes’ familiar pattern played out with Smith. Jealousy. Rage.

In January 2014, Haynes ripped a necklace from Smith’s neck, leaving marks. Omaha police came.
Medina’s phone rang.

A police detective told her about Haynes’ latest arrest.

“Get a warrant,” Medina said.

Then she called the investigator, Venditte.

“You’re not going to believe who’s back.”

***

Dammon Haynes was arrested in February, and Medina started plowing into this latest case.
He was initially charged with third-degree domestic assault and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors. But Medina and an Omaha police detective named Beth Abramson started piecing together police reports and jail calls and realized that there was more to the case.

On one January day, for instance, Haynes drove past the north Omaha home Smith shared with her mother, Melody Benson. Benson had already called police that day to report that the tires on her car had been slashed. She called back to say that Haynes was driving “up and down the street real fast, saying he’s going to shoot the house.” She called yet again to say Haynes was threatening to come by with a gun.

Separately, he had sent text messages like: Get Sharyce away from the window. I can’t call “it” off.
To Medina, this was starting to sound like strike three.

Medina began to track Haynes’ calls from jail. In one recorded call, Haynes instructed Sharyce Smith to drop her protection order and persuade prosecutors to drop the case.

We don’t need that, he told her. We need to work our family out.

Meanwhile, Haynes was wooing other women. One was a girlfriend who worked for the State of Nebraska, with access to the same computer system Medina used. Medina realized this latest girlfriend was feeding Haynes information.

Medina moved to restrict his phone and letter-writing privileges, and a judge twice told him he could contact only one person: his public defender.

But that didn’t stop him. Smith still got 44 phone calls from the Douglas County Jail, with Haynes using inmates and others to help him communicate with the outside world.

According to Medina, he manipulated another inmate into letting him use his mail and phone privileges, threatening to expose the inmate’s conviction for a child sex crime.

One day a woman showed up at Smith’s door and handed her a phone, using Haynes’ nickname: “Da-da (pronounced “Day-Day”) wants to talk to you.”

And authorities intercepted one letter in which Haynes asked his adult son to “Swiss cheese” — or shoot up — Smith’s mother’s house.

“I need you to make something go down,” he wrote to his son. “Send a couple shots through that bitch anything. They cannot show up (in court). If they do, I’ll die in prison.”

***

In the end, there was no trial.

Haynes pleaded no contest to three charges: stalking, making terroristic threats and tampering with a witness. All three carried an additional “habitual criminal” enhancement. The enhancement meant a minimum 10-year sentence.

Strike three.

At his sentencing in November, Haynes tried to strike an apologetic tone.

“I fully accept responsibility for the things I’ve done,” he said. “I want to apologize.”

Medina pointed out how many people he affected. She named at least 20 victims — former girlfriends, their children or parents.

Haynes, she said, “is destroying lives. He will not stop.”

Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman called Haynes one of the worst offenders she had ever seen.

She sentenced him to 12 to 24 years in prison on each of the three charges. He won’t be eligible for parole for 22 years. He is appealing the sentence.

Later, Medina said that in her mind, Haynes was no different from a murderer.

“Stalking — it’s so hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it,” she said. “It’s a level of fear (most people) never, ever understand. ‘I can get you here. I can get you there.’ It’s absolute, 24-hour-a-day terror.”

***
The day Dammon Haynes was sentenced, Shondra Wayne and LaTasha Edwards watched in the courtroom. They blinked tears. Tears of joy. Of relief. Of hope that the terror was finally over.

“I’m doing great now!” an exultant Edwards said right after the sentencing.

Two months later, she is less exuberant.

She is still afraid of Haynes. She does not believe she is or will be safe. She has no sense of peace.

But Edwards does have some justice.

“I do walk,” she said, “with my head up extremely high.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1136, erin.grace@owh.com, twitter.com/ErinGraceOWH

Sources

This report is based on court documents, police reports and other records, as well as interviews with victims, investigators and prosecutors. Dammon Haynes, who is appealing his latest sentence, declined to comment during a brief telephone conversation.

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