Houston man learns fate for kidnapping and killing postal employee

By: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas
| Published 12/19/2019

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HOUSTON, TX -- A 32-year-old resident of Houston has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of kidnapping in connection with the death of a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employee, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Don Gaines pleaded guilty April 26, admitting he choked the victim and drove her to Louisiana, ultimately shooting her in the head.

Today, U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett granted the government’s request for an upward departure of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and ordered Gaines to serve a 540-month sentence.

The court called the crime one of the most gruesome he has had to deal with in his 11 years on the bench. He considered the manner in which the victim died and her last moments of life as well as the defendant’s need for self-preservation over the life of the mother of his children. In imposing the sentence, the court remarked that if the crime had been a mistake, an argument gone horribly wrong, Gaines had the option of calling it off and turning around. “Instead, you doubled down,” he said, noting he then walked her into the woods and shot her.

The defense tried to argue the facts did not warrant a sentence applicable to 1st degree murder. The government disagreed, contending Gaines deliberately decided the victim would die Sept. 11, 2017.

At the hearing, the court heard from Gaines’ former girlfriend who became emotional, describing how Gaines had also choked her in June 2017. He had threatened her after she denied his sexual advances and said he would kill her. The victim’s father also took the stand and described his wonderful and loving daughter and mother to her children.

The defense attempted to portray Gaines as a troubled person who had a difficult life.

The government asked the court to consider what the victim endured at the hands of the defendant and called Gaines a cold-blooded killer.

“Postal inspectors’ duties include protecting employees and investigating violent crimes committed against them,” said Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). “While these types of crimes are rare, when they do occur, we will aggressively investigate to find those responsible and bring them to justice. This investigation was a partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who worked together tirelessly to bring justice to the victim and her family.”

The investigation identified Gaines, also a postal employee, as the person who abducted the victim as she left from the U.S. Postal Station - Houston distribution Center on Aldine Bender Road Sept. 11, 2017. The victim’s family reported her missing shortly thereafter. Gaines and the victim had previously been in a relationship and had two children together.

At the time of his plea, Gaines admitted he choked the woman in her car near his residence in Houston. After he strangled her, Gaines believed she was dead and transported her to Louisiana. However, during the trip, she regained consciousness, and Gaines drove her to a secluded area off the highway. At that time, he parked the car and walked the victim into the woods where he shot her in the head with a firearm. He abandoned her body and drove back to Houston in her car the same day.

Investigators identified location data on the victim’s car through a GPS device.

Evidence mirrored Gaines’ statements. Authorities located the victim’s car at his residence the same date he claimed to have choked her. Her car also traveled along Interstate 10 through Louisiana and returned to Houston. A video further showed Gaines purchased gas on the return drive to Houston after he disposed of the victim’s body.

Ultimately, the investigation led to the remote location in Louisiana where authorities discovered skeletal remains Oct. 12, 2017. Subsequent DNA analysis confirmed those remains were of the victim.

He has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

USPIS led the investigation with the assistance of the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson Davis Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana State Police, Calcasieu Parish (Louisiana) Coroner’s Office, Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Laboratory at Louisiana State University and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Jocher and James McAlister prosecuted the case.

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