The moment DeVonte Dixon kicked in the apartment door – looking to rob the place – he appeared to have had no idea that on the other side was a Facebook friend.
But there she was.
And aided by her recognition, the 24-year-old ex-con was sent off to 12 years in prison Monday for a home-invasion robbery last year in Germantown, Maryland.
“This young woman who was the victim said she knew you,” Montgomery County, Maryland, Circuit Judge Robert Greenberg said from the bench.
Dixon had been convicted at a June trial amid allegations he and an accomplice, who was armed with a handgun, kicked through the door early in the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2015. At the time, his former classmate – 22 at the time – was in the apartment with her 1-year-old daughter, having just put the child down for a nap in the bedroom. She came out and was punched in the face by Dixon, according to authorities. She ran back and picked up the girl from her crib to protect her and was struck again by Dixon, prosecutors said, as she cradled the girl.
That’s when she recognized him, court files show. “I know you,” she told him as the beating continued.
“My daughter was just crying and crying,” the woman testified at trial. Both survived without serious injuries, and the men fled in what authorities said was a brazen intrusion.
Authorities believe Dixon and his accomplice broke into the apartment looking to steal items and money. They may have thought no one was home, prosecutors said. The intruders left without taking anything of value.
With the men gone, the woman set about learning the full identity of one of the attackers, whom she remembered only by his first name, DeVonte – a former classmate among many in her more than 2,000 Facebook friends.
With an assist from a much closer Facebook friend, who also had gone to Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, they zeroed in on Dixon. In testimony, the victim said that although she hadn’t seen Dixon in person in years, or communicated directly with him online, Facebook had played a role in reminding her what he looked like – because she kept seeing his updates.
“Even if I’m not liking it, or commenting on it, it still comes up on my timeline,” she testified.
Detectives also tied Dixon to the crime by lifting a shoe print from the busted door.
“I don’t feel uncomfortable with the jury’s finding,” Greenberg said Monday, but referring to a trait Dixon’s attorney had cited, the judge added: “I do agree with the assessment that you’ve got a lot of anger.”
Dixon spoke for about six minutes in court Monday.
“Of course I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘I feel remorse,’ ” he told Greenberg. “Why should I have remorse for something I really had no involvement in?”
“Mr. Dixon has never taken any kind of responsibility for his actions,” countered Montgomery Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays. Mays noted that after his arrest, in November, Dixon cursed a different judge.
Mays recalled Monday how the crime was random.
“It was only by a twist of fate, or perhaps, good luck for law enforcement and bad luck for Mr. Dixon that [the victim] happened to have gone middle school with Mr. Dixon,” Mays said. “I don’t think that there is any way Mr. Dixon knew who would be behind that door when he kicked it open back in November,” he said.
The act violated a shared sense of privacy, Mays said, and to continue to punch her as she held a child “is just absolutely extreme in terms of disregard for human life and for safety – I mean there’s a child in that room.”
The victim did not speak in court Monday. But she was on the witness stand for nearly an hour at Dixon’s trial. On the afternoon of the home invasion,her boyfriend wasat work and she was alone with her daughter, as most days.
Noises at her door drew her attention.
“I saw two men barging into my house,” before someone “started punching me in my face non-stop,” she said. “I started running towards the [bed]room, because I knew it would wake up my daughter.” With the baby in her arms, the punches continued, she said.
In an interview Monday, the victim said she did not think Dixon recognized her during the attack, in large part because she had recently died her hair purple. She said having been beaten in front of her daughter was the worst experience of her life.
The prison term, “makes me happy,” she said. “Now he doesn’t have to harm anyone else.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Dan Morse