‘You are a murderer’: Tears, raw emotion at sentencing for barbershop stabbing

SAN ANTONIO – The man who stabbed a barbershop employee to death was sentenced to 42 years in prison on Monday. During the proceeding, the victim’s family and the survivors spoke to him in court.

Damion Campbellpleaded guilty earlier this month to the May 2020 murder of Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, and the aggravated assault of two others at the Diesel Barbershop on Bandera Road.

Following the terms of Campbell’s plea deal, 186th District Court Judge Kristina Escalona sentenced him on Monday to 42 years in prison for O’Regan’s murder. She also handed him a pair of 20-year sentences for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. All three sentences will run concurrently.

Campbell will be eligible for parole halfway through the 42-year stretch, and he already has credit for the three years and 10 months he has spent in jail since his arrest.

But that possibility is a long way off, and Campbell stood expressionless Monday as O’Regan’s mother, father and sister told him of the hole he had ripped in their lives.

“She had just begun a new life for herself, and she was just starting to live as her true self,” Mackenna O’Regan said of her sister, who was a transgender woman. “The cruelty and unfairness of your actions has taken the kindest soul out of our world. This is now a world that you have no place in, no belonging, and no worth. Your actions have sealed your fate.”

O’Regan was working at the Diesel Barbershop on Bandera Road on May 6, 2020, when Campbell walked in and asked to set an appointment.

Campbell said he had to get a credit card but returned a few seconds later with a backpack, gun and knife, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

That’s when witnesses told police Campbell ordered the workers to the back of the shop. Police say Campbell choked O’Regan until she was unconscious and then stabbed her repeatedly.

The other two employees in the shop escaped, though one of them, Gabby Harrell, was still wounded.

Speaking through tears in the courtroom Monday, Harrell said she was stabbed and cut multiple times in her back, neck, and head. Her life has been in shambles since the attack, she told Campbell, and it has been “1,412 days living with grief that feels equivalent to death.”

“I’m supposed to be strong,” Harrell said. “I’m supposed to have overcome this terrible thing. I should be over it. But no amount of time will make the horrible memories go away. No amount of time will bring her back.”

Campbell’s attorney, Albert Gutierrez Jr., said the doctor in a court-ordered evaluation reported that Campbell had a mental illness that affected his behavior during the attack. However, Gutierrez said, the doctor did not find Campbell fit the definition of being legally insane at the time.

Still, the attorney said they would have attempted an insanity defense had the case gone to trial.

The O’Regan family’s remarks made it clear they were not giving Campbell a pass.

“Whatever others try to tell you about forgiveness or absolution, you’ll know in your heart that there’s nothing more than empty words and that your actions scream so loudly that those words will never be heard,” O’Regan’s father, Ian O’Regan, told Campbell. “You are a murderer, and that is all you will ever be.”

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