Teen given early release for murder implicated in new murder

LOS ANGELES, CA – A Los Angeles teenager who once avoided a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of murder has been implicated in another killing less than a year after his release. Denmonne Lee, convicted in 2018 for his role in a deadly gas station robbery, was released by District Attorney George Gascón and is now facing charges for a second murder.

In 2018, Lee was convicted following the death of former Marine John Ruh during a robbery in Antelope Valley. Although Lee, then 16, did not pull the trigger, he provided the weapon to his co-defendant, Deonta ‘Fatboy’ Johnson, according to court records. When Gascón took office two years later, he implemented a policy preventing juveniles from being tried as adults, resulting in Lee serving time at the Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar until he turned 25.

Officials noted that Lee responded positively to rehabilitation programs, prompting his transfer to a Malibu facility focused on rehabilitation. By last June, the 22-year-old had been released to a halfway house, enrolled in community college, and secured a job at a nonprofit organization.

However, in April, Lee was arrested again, this time for his alleged involvement in the January 19 murder of 28-year-old Eric Ruffins in Compton. Michelle Brace, the widow of John Ruh, expressed her disappointment in court, stating, “Denmonne, you were given a gift and you squandered that gift. Against my family’s wishes, I had hope that you would change and help your community.”

Brace, who plans to leave California, has vowed to vote against Gascón in the upcoming November election. Critics of Gascón argue that his policy of not trying juveniles as adults has led to increased crime rates. In response to backlash, Gascón’s office has developed a method for transferring certain cases to adult court.

Despite the controversy, Gascón’s office maintains that Lee should have remained in juvenile court due to his lack of a prior criminal record and the fact that he was not the shooter. Gascón, elected on a platform of criminal justice reform, has faced significant pushback and recall attempts during his tenure. His policies, including the elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, have been both praised and criticized.

Nathan Hochman, Gascón’s opponent in the upcoming election, has capitalized on public frustration over crime and homelessness, promising to reverse many of Gascón’s progressive policies. Hochman has vowed to prioritize victims over criminals, a stance that has resonated with many voters.