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Domestic Abuse or Murder? Helix Alum Ordered to Trial in Girlfriend’s Death

Roshawn Broadnax, a former track athlete, is accused of the July 2012 slaying of Deazjnae Banks.

An El Cajon court Tuesday heard two depictions of Roshawn Lamar Broadnax, a former Helix Charter High School track athlete.

In one, he’s a jealous gangbanger who “beat that bitch’s ass,” leading to his girlfriend’s death. In another, he’s a young man possibly guilty of domestic abuse—but not murder.

After a preliminary hearing that included testimony from a relative and friend of the victim, Deazjnae Banks, Judge Allan Preckel ordered Broadnax, 21, to stand trial on first-degree murder charges.

Broadnax, being held on $3 million bail, is accused of the July 2012 death of Banks, who was found beaten and unconscious by San Diego County sheriff’s deputies July 10 in Broadnax’s Spring Valley home.

After being hospitalized, Banks was taken off life support and died July 12.

Key testimony Tuesday came from Kendra Scott, a close friend of the victim who also knew Broadnax.

Scott testified that upon her meeting with San Diego County sheriff’s homicide detectives days after the incident, she told officers that Broadnax had said he “beat that bitch’s ass,” referring to Banks.

Scott testified that Broadnax had spoken with her on the phone at least two times on the day of the incident, and during one of those phone calls said Broadnax sounded scared, anxious and “that he had hit [Banks],” Scott said. 

She added that in a second phone call about 60-90 minutes later, Broadnax told Scott that Banks “hadn’t waken up for 30 minutes,” and that “she needed to go to the hospital.”

Scott, who was at Mission Beach with other friends at the time of the phone calls, said she told the defendant that she couldn’t come immediately because she had not driven to Mission Beach herself.

The court also was told that Broadnax was a member of a gang in Lincoln Park, and that he may have been upset that Banks had gotten into an unspecified relationship with a member of a rival gang in Skyline.

Scott testified that she did not know who the gang member was, only that she knew of him, and that Banks “had been talking to a crosstown guy.”

Deputy Guadalupe Catano testified that she was the first member of the sheriff’s office to arrive at the home where Banks was found.

She said Banks showed visible signs of swollenness and bruising on her face, near her eyes and cheeks.

She also testified that she overheard emergency medical workers say that Banks had no pulse upon their arrival, and that it took about 15-20 minutes for a light pulse to be detected.

Keyaunie Jackson, the victim’s cousin, testified that Banks called her around 12:30 p.m. July 10, telling her that Broadnax was “trippin’’ and to “come get her,’’ without saying where she was.

The cousin said she got in her car and tried to find Banks, repeatedly calling her cell phone, which Banks had left at Bellus Academy, a beauty school in National City, but never heard back from the victim.   

Jackson said Broadnax called her about 4 p.m., saying ambulance personnel wanted to talk to her.

The first testimony of the day was from Dr. Othon Mena, a medical examiner for the county for 5 1/2 years. Mena performed the autopsy on Banks.

Mena told Deputy District Attorney Danielle Hickman that Banks’ official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, and that he noticed three or four small areas of hemorrhage.

He also said Banks had “several scrapes and bruises” on her lips, cheek, chin and neck.

“She had a head injury that caused her to be hospitalized,” Mena said. “A subdural hematoma and bleeding caused [Banks’] brain to be pushed from one side of her skull to the other, and downward, resulting in brain damage.”

Mena also said that he did not notice any breaking of the skin on Banks’ scalp, and no fracture of the cranium. He said that there is no indication that the wounds were self-inflicted.

Before the judge ruled, Broadnax’s attorney argued against classifying the incident as murder.

“I do not believe that there is any evidence that would show that Mr. Broadnax had any intent to kill,” said his public defender, Ann Sommers. “I believe that there was no express malice was shown, in that Mr. Broadnax did not set out to kill anyone.

“There was also no implied malice shown because there [are] plenty of times that people get into domestic violence situations that [do] not result in the death of the other person.

Sommers noted the absence of “heinous photos of the badly beaten victim.”

That’s “because there aren’t any,” she said.

“There was not, in fact, significant bruising. There was light bruising observed on Miss Banks. I would argue that it was an unfortunate consequence, if at all, that this transpired as it did.

“If it was a slightly different scenario, then we would be here on a 273.5 [domestic violence charge].”

Judge Preckel wasn’t moved.

“I wish both parties a very fair trial, but quite seriously I sit here as a mere humble magistrate,” he said. “Mindful of the degree of proof required at this hearing, I’m satisfied at the very least on a theory of implied malice the court finds that the [prosecution has] held out [its] burden, and that Mr. Broadnax should be ordered held to answer for the charge of murder.”

Preckel also found Broadnax in violation of probation based on a burglary conviction, and set a March 6 arraignment in El Cajon Superior Court.

Broadnax ran track for the Scotties in 2008, earning JV honor roll status for his performances in the 400 meters and triple jump as a sophomore.

—City News Service contributed to this story.

F. Dunn February 20, 2013 at 07:55 PM
My kid went to Helix (class of 2006). We loved that school. She and her friends went on to terrific universities and are now doing well in their careers. I hate it when people drag Helix through the mud because of something some middling athlete did after he left Helix.
Eric Yates February 20, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Hi F. Dunn, Thanks for reading. The intention is not to drag Helix's name through the mud, but simply to provide a local tie to the community. In no way does this suggest that Helix alums are bad people or criminals or anything like that. But some of our Patch readers probably went to school at the same time as Broadnax, thus making it relevant to them.
Batman February 20, 2013 at 11:02 PM
This looks like a carbon copy of the incident that just happened in South Africa.
F. Dunn February 20, 2013 at 11:10 PM
I hear you, Eric. I'm just very sensitive to stuff about Helix since our kid went there and both my husband and I are white and went to far "loftier" schools where the same crud went down with alum. Brenda Spencer. Scott Peterson.
Batman February 21, 2013 at 11:15 PM
And how did he manage to murder someone without a gun?

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