The man convicted of stabbing a 20-year-old over a Facebook post and a case of mistaken identity in Florence has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Gregory Cross pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter on March 8 in Lane County Circuit Court for the murder of Damien DeTar, who was stabbed to death in his girlfriend’s trailer on May 29, 2020. He was also convicted of one count of hindering prosecution.
Cross, who was originally charged with second degree murder, was arrested hours after the killing and has spent nearly two years in Lane County Jail. Damien DeTar’s older sister Brianna DeTar said she’s relieved to have some closure, although disappointed that he only pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
“I don’t understand how he didn’t get charged with first degree murder,” Brianna DeTar said. “But I don’t think the system failed. It feels unfair, but in an unfair world it’s about as good as we’ll get.”
Under Oregon law, both murder and manslaughter are criminal homicide, but the circumstances of the crime affect the conviction. Both first and second degree murder are life sentences. Under the state’s Measure 11 sentencing guidelines, first degree manslaughter has a mandatory minimum of 10 years.
Cross will not be eligible for a reduction of sentence through good behavior on the first degree manslaughter charge.
In July 2020 Eugene Weekly published a story looking into the murder based on interviews with DeTar’s friends and family and found that the killer didn’t really know his victim at all. Cross had allegedly been high on meth and confused Damien with another man of the same name who had been featured in a Facebook post labeling him a snitch.
The Facebook post in question originated from a woman in Kentucky and featured a photo of a man she says is Damien Wilson, warning her friends and followers that he’s a “snitch” in a drug case, and not to do business with him. The only similarity between the so-called “informant” and DeTar were their first names.
DeTar moved to Florence from his birthplace in Arizona when he was five years old. He struggled with addiction from a young age and had numerous run-ins with the law. Friends and family describe him as a kind soul and clever writer, one who kept notebooks filled to the brim with lyrics and poetry.
“My brother had problems like the rest of us,” Brianna DeTar said. “But people loved him, he was young and he could have changed his life around. Unfortunately, that’s something we’ll never know.”
Lane County prosecutor Robert Lane did not return a request for comment.