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Detroit man sentenced to life following WB murder

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 19, 2018

WEST BLOOMFIELD — DeSean Smith, the 20-year-old Detroit man found guilty of the murder of West Bloomfield resident Diana Pesserl, was sentenced to prison July 18.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander sentenced Smith to life without parole for first-degree felony murder.

Smith was also sentenced to two years for fourth-degree arson and two to five years for felony possession of a firearm. The two lesser sentences will be carried out concurrently, with 585 days credited toward the sentences. Smith will also have to pay upwards of $5,000 in restitution and court fees.

When asked for a statement during sentencing, Smith kept his words short.

“I didn’t kill Diana,” he said.

During the sentencing, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Collins read a statement on behalf of Pesserl’s family, since it was too difficult for the family to attend the sentencing.

“This ... loss of (Diana) absolutely devastated her family,” said Collins. “The next hurdle is who is to be held accountable. (Pesserl’s mother) is now dealing with how to live the rest of her life without her daughter and the mother of her grandson.”

Collins said the murder and the following trial are “something that consumes” the family.

A jury found Smith guilty of the three charges June 15 after a weeklong trial. Key witnesses testified against Smith in the trial, including childhood friend and West Bloomfield resident Jaylen Stringer, 20.

In his testimony, Stringer detailed the night of Dec. 8, 2016, and the early morning of Dec. 9, 2016.

Smith had been visiting Stringer but left during the night for a few hours; it is in those hours that Stringer and the jury believe Smith killed Pesserl during an attempted robbery while she sat in her car, listening to music and smoking a cigarette.

Smith had reportedly tried to rob Pesserl, but she grabbed his gun, so Smith fired the gun into her chest, according to testimony. Smith then moved her car to hide it, doused it in gasoline found in the trunk of the car and lit the car on fire.

Pesserl’s body was found in the trunk of her car by West Bloomfield police officers.

After Alexander delivered the sentence, Smith was escorted back to the Oakland County Jail, where he has been held throughout the trial.

Stringer was charged with tampering with evidence, and he pleaded guilty. He was previously charged with accessory after the fact, but the charge was dropped. He will be sentenced Aug. 1 in Oakland County Circuit Court.