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Rowe's defense team makes case against death penalty

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    Donnie Rowe with attorney Frank Hogue as Chief Judge Brenda Trammell is advising him about testifying on his own behalf during the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial Sunday at Putnam County's Courthouse.

As the prosecution ended its portion of the sentencing phase in the Donnie Rowe death penalty trial at the Putnam County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, it was the defense’s turn to present its case for a life without the possibility of parole sentence to the jury from Grady County.

The day’s testimony featured two current inmates in the Georgia prison system and the first member of Rowe’s family to take the stand. Her name was Tammy Mansker, and she is a cousin who grew up with Rowe but had no contact with him after she moved away from the family in the mid-1990s.

Mansker described the family’s existence as a “commune” situation where she couldn’t remember neither the number of homes nor towns in which they lived. She said she even attended seven schools in one year.

For the children in this home, she said there was neglect and abuse of a physical and sexual nature. Neglect was in the form of not having enough food and clothes at times. Abuse resulted in broken bones and black eyes. 

Mansker said she witnessed abuse against Rowe, like being stabbed with a fork at the dinner table and often struck in the head.

“A walking bruise” is how she described her cousin.

Mansker said Rowe’s father, Donnie Rowe Sr., had died. Rowe Jr.’s stepfather’s name was Brad. Mansker said she also saw Rowe Jr.’s mother drag him around by his hair and call her son a “curse” and “dead weight.”

Mansker said Rowe Jr.’s mother couldn’t stand her and was mad often about a lot of things. But she said Rowe Jr. took it.

Mansker also described Rowe Jr. as a “people person” who would take blame for things he didn’t do and tried to make people laugh.

Attorney Erin Wallace asked questions of Mansker and got to the verdict against Rowe Jr. He was found guilty of two counts of malice murder and two counts of felony murder in the deaths of Georgia Department of

Corrections officers Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue plus one count each of escape and hijacking a motor vehicle.

Mankser, currently a business owner in Tennessee, testified that she accepted the verdict and that the crime was horrible. She asked the jury for mercy for her cousin.

One of Rowe Jr.’s friends from his youth, Kenny Kellogg, was also on the witness stand and testified about the drug and alcohol usage he saw in Rowe Jr.’s home, wherever it was at the time. He also said he didn’t see a lot of support for Rowe Jr. from his parents and he saw the stepfather throw his friend to the ground and never saw intervention from the mother to stop any abuse.

Kellogg was also the “minor” in a contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge against Rowe Jr. when there was a break-in at an abandoned school building.

James Moody is a state prisoner serving time for malice murder among other charges who testified in a Putnam County Jail uniform and handcuffs. He has been in three different prisons with Rowe Jr., and he said in these prisons there are stabbings and rapings on a daily basis. Moody also testified that Rowe Jr. put himself in harm’s way to prevent an attack against him.

Devon Willingham, in similar attire, is serving time for aggravated assault among other charges. He was once a roommate with Rowe Jr. and said he once stopped a stabbing attack against him.

Under cross examination, Willingham testified that, while everybody says it, he did hear Rowe Jr. say he was tired of being in prison.

Rowe Jr. was serving a life sentence for armed robbery when he and a fellow prisoner, Ricky Dubose, successfully escaped from a GDC transport bus June 13, 2017.