Vandalia man gets life in prison for drug-related murder

Published 12:32 am Monday, December 22, 2003

By By NORMA LERNER / Niles Daily News
CASSOPOLIS -- A 22-year-old Vandalia man who took another's life by shooting him six times last year during a robbery over drugs will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Ahmed Williams-El of Vandalia received a life sentence Friday morning in Cass County Circuit Court following his conviction in November of first degree felony murder. He was also imposed a consecutive two-year prison term on a conviction of felony firearm as a second habitual offender and a four to 7-1/2 year concurrent prison term for being a felon in possession of a firearm as a habitual offender in the shooting death of 37-year-old Damon Burroughs of Union.
Burroughs' sister sat teary eyed in court waiting for Williams-El to receive his sentence but did not to wish to address the court. She was ushered out of court by a court administrator after the sentencing.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said the court heard terrible testimony on the crime against another human being. "He took the life of Damon Burroughs. We ask the court for a life sentence," he said.
Defense Attorney Jason Ronning argued there are many purposes of rehabilitation, but it is thrown out the window in life in prison. It is possible he said that someone serving life may understand what went wrong or come to a new life or religion and be able to go on parole. "In this case it's out the window," he argued. "When I represent any criminal, I am representing myself to try and do what is right. No one knows what he (Williams-El) was thinking on the day this occurred. After that, he will be sentenced and will be forgotten. It's possible he will not walk outside those walls again. We ask for the possibility of rehabilitation."
Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge said the law requires a mandatory life sentence. He recalled it was Oct. 25, 2002, when Williams-El along with Burroughs, Raymond Washington and Renaldo Florence drove south of Cassopolis after stopping near Cassopolis to buy marijuana. Burroughs was carrying a significant amount of cash after being paid by his employer. He had $200 in his possession, he said.
Dodge said Williams-El decided to rob him and stopped the car to get a 22 rifle out of the trunk in a wooded area on North Street. He walked Burroughs in the woods and demanded money from him. He asked for identification, but when Burroughs had none, he shot him as he ran for his life. He was shot in the lower back and lay wounded as Williams-El moved him over and shot him five times in the head. The weapon was then buried, Dodge said. Williams-El's conviction followed a two-week trial. He was allowed credit for 298 days served.