A DUBLIN man has been found guilty of murdering Melanie McCarthy McNamara, who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting two years ago.
Daniel McDonnell (19) was convicted of her murder by a jury at the Central Criminal Court today and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The accused, who had denied the charge over the course of a seven-day trial showed no emotion as the unanimous verdict and mandatory life sentence were handed down.
Family and friends of Melanie wept as the verdict was delivered this afternoon and a victim impact statement described her as "an angel who loved life".
In the statement, the family said Melanie's death had "shattered their world".
Mr Justice Paul Carney sentenced the accused and excused the jury members from further service for life.
The case against McDonnell had centred on letters he wrote in prison in which he had bragged about killing Melanie (16).
The prosecution said the letters, including the boast "Two in the head. The b***h is dead", amounted to a confession and the jury of six men and six women found McDonnell guilty.
McDonnell, of Brookview Lawns in Tallaght had pleaded not guilty to murdering Melanie on February 8 2012 at nearby Brookview Way. She was shot in the head as she sat in a car with her boyfriend and his friend.
McDonnell is the second man to be sentenced in connection with Melanie's death - last August, Keith Hall of Kilmartin Drive, Tallaght, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to her manslaughter.
The jury returned its verdict this afternoon after four hours and seventeen minutes' deliberations.
McDonnell, wearing a grey suit, purple shirt and purple striped tie, stared straight ahead as it was read out.
Supt Brian Sutton said McDonnell had previous convictions for offences including possession of firearms and threatening to kill or cause serious harm.
The accused was single, with no children; his parents were separated and he had two sisters. He was educated in a number of schools and had a "disruptive history and upbringing".
He had left school at the age of 14. McDonnell was arrested along with another man who had been dealt with by the courts. He had been in custody since his arrest.
Melanie's godmother Jennifer Roche read out a victim impact statement on behalf of her parents and family. In it, they spoke of how their "beautiful baby girl" had been brutally murdered.
"To hear their little girl was shot in the head shattered their world", Ms Roche read from the statement.
"She was a girl who loved life and never got a chance to live it", she said.
Melanie's last words to her mother Melissa had been "Bye Mommy, I'll be in early in the morning", but Melissa was still waiting and tomorrow never came, the statement continued.
Melissa had said if she died tomorrow it would not be too soon and she could not wait to be with Melanie, who was "her mother's best friend".
Melanie was also described as "every mother's dream daughter".
Of McDonnell, the statement said: "If he has a heart, he will tell us why he took our princess away from us".
Mr Justice Carney backdated the sentence to February 2012, when McDonnell went into custody.
As the proceedings closed, a woman who had been sitting in the public gallery shouted profanities at the gardai, accusing them of "stitching up a kid like that".
Melanie's parents were not present in court and none of her family and friends made further comment afterwards.
The accused himself had not given evidence during the trial.
During the trial, McDonnell's defence had rejected the State's case, claiming the letters were "rants" to McDonnell's friend and girlfriend.
McDonnell’s barrister had argued that there "wasn’t a scintilla of evidence" against his client apart from two letters he wrote in prison, which he described as ‘rants to his friend and girlfriend’.
Mr Justice Carney had pointed out that there was a "total lack of corroboration" in the case.
However, he had told the jury they were entitled to convict McDonnell the members were satisfied that the letters were reliable as a confession.
During the trial, the jury heard the letters were written while McDonnell was a protected prisoner, on remand charged with Melanie's murder.
One of the letters, which the accused admitted writing, included the words: “Close-range head shots. That’s what I’m going for… Two in the head. The bitch is dead. Ha ha… Little did he know I had a loaded 12-guage. Left his bitch all over the Sunday World front page.”
In the second letter, the accused wrote: “That other thing wouldn’t have happened if I’d known she was in the car. It was meant for that other smell bag. He won’t get away with bullying my Ma.”
The court had heard he was a protected prisoner at the time and knew his letters would be opened.
He also admitted writing grafitti on his cell wall, which, according to the prosecution, was a brag about killing Melanie.
It included the words: "2 in the head. Your b***h is dead ha ha".
Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, had told the trial that while no finger-prints were found on the vehicle or gun used in the killing, Mr McDonnell’s letter writing was "truly extraordinary".
“There is no other explanation for them other than admissions of guilt,” he said.
However, Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, noted that the prosecutor had not ascribed a role to his client in the murder.
“It appears to me, the documents on which he’s relying place the gun in Mr McDonnell’s hands,” he said of his client’s letters.
However, he noted the testimony of witness Seán Byrne, who was driving the car in which Melanie was sitting. He knew Mr McDonnell but told gardai he had never seen the gunman before.
Mr Marrinan also said there was no evidence of any turf war or anything that would give his client a reason to assassinate someone.