The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. man sentenced to 27 years for killing girlfriend. Her body wasn’t found.

At sentencing, Darnell Sterling said he was innocent and suggested his girlfriend’s “dark” life led to her murder

Olga Ooro (Metropolitan Police Department/Metropolitan Police Department )
3 min

A D.C. man was sentenced Friday to 27 years in prison in the killing of his girlfriend, whose body has still not been recovered by police.

Olga Ooro, 34, was last spotted on July 16, 2020, after she, her 7-year-old son and her boyfriend, Darnell Sterling, went to dinner at a Navy Yard restaurant. Two days later, her son was found wandering the floor outside their apartment building, wearing pajamas and sobbing to a neighbor: “Have you seen my mommy?”

During a two-week trial last fall, federal prosecutors in the District argued that Sterling, who had a history of abusing Ooro, killed her while her son was asleep in a nearby bedroom. A D.C. Superior Court jury deliberated for less than a day before finding Sterling guilty of second-degree murder.

During the trial, prosecutors played security video that captured the three entering the elevator of Ooro’s Northwest D.C. apartment building, after Ooro appeared to wave Sterling inside. They also played security and traffic camera footage, which prosecutors said showed Sterling wheeling a large object on a dolly out of Ooro’s apartment building.

Prosecutors said the object was Ooro’s body, curled up in the fetal position inside a large, black garbage bag with a tarp over it. Authorities said Sterling placed Ooro’s body in his car and disposed of it somewhere between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Ocean City, Md.

At Friday’s sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristian Hinson highlighted the 57-year-old Sterling’s 34 arrests and 14 convictions dating back to 1984 for various crimes including simple assault and second-degree burglary. Hinson said that a year before she went missing, Ooro had taken out a restraining order against Sterling, and a judge ordered Sterling to stay away from her or face contempt.

Ooro went missing just days before Sterling was scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court on allegations he had abused Ooro.

“There’s a theme associated with Mr. Sterling in the assault and domestic violence case,” Hinson said. “He denies guilt and offers no expression of remorse. He shifts blame and denies responsibility. Now, that behavior has escalated to murder.”

Murder trials where a victim’s body has not been found — sometimes referred to as “no body” cases — are rare. Prosecutors must convince jurors that the victim is dead, and then try to tie the death to a particular suspect.

Sterling, seated next to his attorney, Kevin McCants, denied being responsible for his former girlfriend’s murder and said he planned to file an appeal.

He claimed that he only tried to help Ooro find a stable job and housing for her and her son.

“It wasn’t me. I was somewhere else,” Sterling said. “There was no blood in my car. She was a friend of mine. She was doing wrong and in a dark space. But I would help her, regardless.”

At times through tears, Ooro’s father, Otieno Ooro, described his daughter accompanying him to classes he took in the United States after his family emigrated from Kenya.

“You took my pride away,” Otieno Ooro said to Sterling. “Everything I wanted in America is gone. You not only killed Olga, you killed me. You killed our whole family. You have stabbed me in the heart.”

His grandson, he said, was still traumatized.

“We will never know what he saw,” Otieno Ooro said. “He still says to us, ‘Mommy, I miss you.’”