A Texas death-row inmate who was found guilty of murdering a man he mistook for his friend during a botched drug-sniffing sting was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday also sentenced 28-year-old D.J. “Drew” Williams to life behind bars, though the judge suspended his parole for five years.
Williams and a partner killed 32-year‑old Thomas DeSantis in March 2018 after they botched the operation and tricked him into taking two pills from a syringe that were laced with fentanyl.
Prosecutors argued that Williams was so desperate to save his life that he believed DeSants would die if he were found dead in the back seat of his car.
But defense lawyers argued that he had no idea he was helping DeSant’s death and that he was acting in self-defense.
“The defendant acted out of a very dark place,” Williams’ lawyer said.
“He was completely and utterly incapable of making any rational decision, much less that of his life.”
Prosecutors said the pair had been using drugs for years and that the plan to lure DeSantes into a car had gone badly wrong.
They said Williams and his partner, 26-yearold Michael Tovar, had planned to hide DeSante and the two pills at a local convenience store and waited for him at the door of the store, then set up a fake drug-smelling device in the car.
Williams was found dead on March 18, 2018, inside the car after he had used the syringe to take the two drugs, prosecutors said.
The pair had initially pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said Williams, who was released from prison in 2016, told them he had been acting out of self-preservation.