Drake declares mistrial on opening day of conspiracy to commit murder trial

Published 2:46 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Sixth District Judge Carmen Drake declared a mistrial today in the trial of Damien Keonne Hayes, 28, and Diquan Deonte Seals, 29, who were being tried together for the conspiracy to murder Don Owens in 2018.

Drake, after declaring the mistrial, would not provide specifics, other than to say the step was necessary to assure a fair trial was provided to both the state and the defendants.

Diquan Seals

Damien Hayes


Sixth District Attorney Shameca Collins said, “Absolutely, we will try them again.”

A conspiracy to commit murder charge is one of planning and taking action toward murder, she said.

Owens was 29 years old when he was shot and killed on Dec. 17, 2018. Hayes was tied to the crime in July 2021, when law enforcement announced in a press conference it had made a break in the case.

DiQuan Seals later turned himself in to the Natchez Police Department on the same charge as Hayes. Investigators allegedly obtained audio from a phone message between Hayes and Seals where they allegedly spoke about killing Owens.

Hayes was originally given a bond of $500,000, but he bonded out of jail when that bond was reduced from $500,000 to $50,000 in July 2022 by former Circuit Court Judge Lillie Sanders, who did not seek another term in office during the last election cycle.

Hayes was returned to jail in April 2023 after being arrested for a controlled substance violation.

Hayes was also charged in March 2020 with a drive-by shooting case that never went to trial because the only witness, Don Owen’s cousin Kendrick Owens, was murdered, Collins told in newspaper at that time. Kendrick Owens was shot in a drive-by shooting on Christmas Eve in 2019 and was killed three months after Hayes was arrested for the crime. The investigation into Kendrick Owens’ death was still ongoing, Collins said in July 2022. To date, no one has been charged with Kendrick Owens’ murder.

Seals, who had been out on bond, had his bond revoked and was returned to jail Wednesday.