Man pleads not guilty to removing cellmate’s eyeballs, killing activist

Shackles clanking, Donte Lamar Wyatt was led into the DeKalb County courtroom long after the other incarcerated defendants scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning. He slouched on the wooden bench, arms crossed over his orange jumpsuit, and smirked behind an unkempt beard.

Wild-eyed, he glanced at the gathered media members, and at the friends and families of those he's alleged to have killed — an LGBT activist he's accused of strangling with a scarf, and a cellmate whose eyeballs he's accused of removing.

He did not speak. His attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

In two separate indictments, Wyatt, 33, has been charged with 14 felonies, including two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and four counts of aggravated assault.

“The allegations really are gruesome in this case,” DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said after Wyatt’s brief court appearance.

Authorities believe that, on April 13, Wyatt met his estranged wife at a Waffle House in Henry County, stabbed her multiple times and fled in a rented pickup truck. He wound up in DeKalb County, where he broke into the Shadowridge Drive home of Catherine Han Montoya — a well-loved activist and member of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

According to indictments, Wyatt beat Montoya and attacked her with a knife before strangling her with a scarf.

“She was there minding her own business,” James said.

Wyatt’s alleged crime spree that day ended about a mile from Montoya’s home, where he was lured out of another home by tear gas from the DeKalb County SWAT team — but authorities believe he killed again less than three months later.

On July 4, Wyatt was being held at the DeKalb County jail when, according to authorities, he attacked 23-year-old cellmate Jah’Corey Tyson, strangling him and removing his eyeballs.

Tyson later died at DeKalb Medical Center. Family members, who declined to speak with reporters Wednesday, have previously said that only one of his eyes was found.

James said the investigation is ongoing and his office is “looking at all parties that may be responsible” for Tyson’s death.

“Anything that happened that was criminal, that fits criminal statute that should not have happened, that’s something that we’re interested in and something that we’re going to review in our office,” James said.

Wyatt’s appointed attorney, Daryl Queen, said his client would undergo a psychological evaluation in the coming months to determine if he’s fit to stand trial. James said it was too early to talk about that aspect of the case.

“When we get to that bridge,” he said, “we’ll cross it.”