MURFREESBORO — Nearly three years after the murder of Cesar Lopez-Flores, his killer pleaded guilty, saying he found God while incarcerated, which urged him to confess.
In a statement that shocked the court, Danny Dashay Holmes pleaded guilty minutes after his trial began last week, confessing to the murder of Lopez-Flores. On Aug. 23 in Circuit Judge David Bragg's packed courtroom, Holmes officially pleaded guilty to the indictment, including charges related to first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and criminal impersonation of law enforcement. He'll serve a life sentence in prison, one which he says he'll wear "as a badge of honor."
Holmes fatally shot Lopez-Flores on Dec. 16, 2016, and kidnapped Brittany Johnson in Shelbyville, whom he forced to drive to Lopez-Flores' home on Indian Park Drive in Murfreesboro. That's where Holmes killed Lopez-Flores and fled the scene, leaving Johnson behind. Murfreesboro police said Holmes had placed tracking devices on both Lopez-Flores and Johnson's cars before the killing.
In a lengthy, 20-minute statement, Holmes addressed the court, explaining his decision to confess to the murder. He said over a year ago, God changed his life. He felt as if God was putting pressure on him to tell the truth and confess to the murder.
"I knew the Lord was just on me, weighing on me over and over," Holmes said Friday.
"I'm 30-years-old, and I've been fighting for nothing all my life. I've been fighting for gangs. . . . I ain't never fought for anything that made sense. But I knew the Lord was telling me to fight for him this time. I just knew he was stirring on my spirit."
What led Holmes to confess? Song lyrics from Big Daddy Weave. He brought a notebook with him to the trial with lyrics from the band's song "Redeemed."
"And if I didn't want to tell the truth, I should've never brought that notebook," Holmes said.
After reading the lyrics, "Then You look at this prisoner and say to me, 'Son, stop fighting a fight that's already been won,'" he made up his mind: he was going to tell the truth. He was going to confess to a murder.
The redemption tale struck a chord with those in the courtroom. As Holmes spoke, the room filled as people wandered in to hear the confession. His family sobbed during his statement.
"Momma, you know I love you," Holmes said to his mother. "But Momma, I promise you, your baby boy, he's going to serve the Lord forever."
Holmes recounted his flashy lifestyle to the court. He had money — lots of it — designer goods and expensive cars. Now he plans to tell all the young people he meets in prison about finding salvation through religion, not cash or luxuries.
He shared that he's been praying for the victim's family. He learned while incarcerated that Lopez-Flores was a father with three children. This struck Holmes, a father himself. He realized his actions robbed three girls from a life with their father.
"My consequences deserve a life sentence," he said.