MCAO to seek death penalty for 2nd time against 1st-degree murder suspect

Dec 13, 2023, 3:46 PM

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will seek the death penalty a second time against 35-year-old...

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will seek the death penalty a second time against 35-year-old Thomas Desharnais, accused in multiple first-degree murders. (Scottsdale Police Photo)

(Scottsdale Police Photo)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday it will seek the death penalty a second time against a suspect accused in multiple first-degree murders.

MCAO filed the notice against 35-year-old Thomas Desharnais on Nov. 29, about 18 months after the first filing.

Desharnais is accused of killing his cellmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix in 2022.

He was already in jail for first-degree murder and child abuse charges in the death of his girlfriend’s 11-year-old grandson earlier in 2022.

“The defendant has shown an utter disregard for life whether he is in the community or in custody,” County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in a press release.

Both trials are expected to commence in 2024, according to MCAO.

What are the details of Desharnais’ initial first-degree murder case?

Desharnais and his girlfriend, 53-year-old Stephanie Davis, were initially arrested in late January 2022.

Desharnais accused Davis of routinely abusing the child and another grandchild before the 11-year-old was found unconscious in a bathtub in a room at the Extended Stay America in Old Town Scottsdale. The child was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Davis, who called 911, told police that the child had been “hurting himself” all day, a claim disputed by Desharnais in a post-arrest interview, according to police.

Desharnais told investigators that Davis had become increasingly physically and mentally abusive to the two children over the 2-3 months before the 11-year-old’s death, court documents say.

Desharnais said he witnessed Davis strike the 11-year-old and the other child, a 9-year-old, with various items on multiple occasions, causing bleeding and bruising.

The day before the child’s death, Davis allegedly hit the 11-year-old with a metal ratchet at least three times in the head while he was naked in the bathtub, according to court documents.

On the day of the child’s death, Desharnais told police that he and Davis heard “whimpering” from the bathroom.

Davis found the child lying in a fetal position on the right side of the bathtub, which was stained with blood, according to court documents.

An examination of the children revealed multiple lacerations, cuts, abrasions and bruises over their bodies, court documents say.

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MCAO to seek death penalty for 2nd time against 1st-degree murder suspect