Double Homicide

Darnell Lee, 26 and
Jason A. Smith, 30

Jason Smith

Jason Smith

Darnell Lee

Darnell Lee

Darnell Lee, 26, and
Jason A. Smith, 30
1800 block of Easton Blvd.
Des Moines, Iowa
Polk County
Investigating Agency: Des Moines Police Department
June 17, 2017

Darnell Lee, 26, and Jason A. Smith, 30, were killed in a shooting in the 1800 block of Easton Boulevard in Des Moines on Saturday, June 17, 2017.

At the time, police said the shooting, which occurred in the Martin Luther King Jr. Park neighborhood, apparently stemmed from a fight at an after-hours gathering.

No one has been arrested in the double homicide.

The deaths marked the 17th and 18th homicides in Des Moines for 2017.

More information on the shootings follows.

Shot day before Father’s Day, victim was ‘the best dad’

By Kelly McGowan | The Des Moines Register, Updated 2:32 p.m. CT June 20, 2017

There has been an unusually high number of homicides so far in 2017.

Darnell Lee planned a princess party for his only daughter’s ninth birthday on Sunday.

The party, which coincided with Father’s Day, was detailed, down to an airbrushed T-shirt that said “Daddy’s little baby,” a purple tutu and white sneakers Lee had decorated for her by hand with glitter.

But the 26-year-old father was shot and killed Saturday morning.

Police were called at about 3 a.m. to the 1800 block of Easton Boulevard, according to a news release. Lee was found dead at the scene and another gunshot victim, 30-year-old Jason A. Smith, was taken to a hospital where he died. Attempts to reach people who knew Smith were unsuccessful Monday.

“His greatest joy was his daughter,” Lee’s oldest sister Tabitha Lee said. “He wanted everything to be perfect for her.”

Family members still gathered Sunday for the fish fry and party Lee had planned. They let his daughter wear the sparkly shoes that day, then put them away for her to remember him by.

Donna Williams, the grandmother of Lee’s daughter, said you couldn’t help but love Lee. He had told her recently over the phone that she would be proud of him when she saw the party he had planned.

“She was his princess and he wanted her to feel like a princess on her birthday,” Williams said.

Even though Lee wasn’t there Sunday, his daughter’s aunt Dénisha Simón said guests felt his presence.

He was loved by many, Lee’s daughter’s mother Toni Williams said.

“No words can describe the love he had for his daughter,” she said. “His face lit up when he saw her. He was the best dad I’ve ever met.”

Tabitha Lee said everything about her creative brother, nicknamed “Doodie,” was special.

“He had love for everyone around him,” she said. “He touched people … He would never hurt a soul.”

Lee’s family included three brothers and five sisters. He grew up in Des Moines and worked in construction and at IHOP.

More than 60 people gathered Monday evening at a house on Dean Avenue for a grill-out and vigil to celebrate Lee’s life. Children jumped on a trampoline as adults conversed. Many guests wore shirts bearing Lee’s picture.

Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said the shooting apparently stemmed from a fight at an after-hours gathering. About 20 to 25 people were at the scene when the shootings happened, he said Monday in an email.

The investigation is progressing, he said, but no new information about suspects or details of what led to the shootings was released. No arrests have been announced.

Family members remembered Lee on Monday for his smile, humor, honesty, sound advice, good looks and positivity.

Tyrae Lee, his sister, said dealing with the loss “is gonna hurt so bad.”

Saturday’s homicides were the 17th and 18th in Des Moines in 2017.

Meegan Lee-Ford, Darnell Lee’s cousin said that Lee, Smith and Trey Lee, who was fatally shot in March near Evelyn Davis Park, were all distant cousins.

Dallas Hawkins, Lee’s uncle, called the shooting a senseless tragedy and urged Des Moines politicians to institute programs to help black youth.

“When you’ve got youth out here killing each other like this, it’s a jungle,” he said.

Growing up, Hawkins said Des Moines’ now-closed Westside Boxing Club taught him valuable life lessons while keeping young people off the streets and away from drugs and alcohol.

“I just want my black youth to start surviving; that’s what it boils down to,” Hawkins said.

Copyright Des Moines Register 2017

About Darnell Lee (from obituary)

Darnell Cameron Lee was born on August 28, 1990 to Arthur T. Lee, Sr. and Joleen K. Johnson. Darnell was educated in the Des Moines Public School System where he completed his general studies. After graduation, he continued his education at Iowa Central Community College working toward a degree.

Darnell worked as an independent contractor, waiter, and also remodeled homes. If there was a goal that needed to be met, Darnell was on it and made sure it was done right the first time.

He was a firm believer of “getting it done.” He also was a good cook, and could look in the refrigerator and turn scraps into a banquet.

There was never a dull moment around Darnell. He enjoyed time spent with his family and friends, but most of all, his baby girl, Z’Nasia. She was his heart. He made sure she had what she needed in life and was well cared for.

Darnell Lee gravestone

Darnell Lee is buried at Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines. (Courtesy photo Katie Lou at

Darnell enjoyed the worship experience at Corinthian Baptist Church, tremendously. He was able to be in church June 11, 2017, and he expressed to “Pops” how encouraged he was by the service and was looking forward to the following week.

Darnell had a way of bringing out the best in people. His bright smile and warm spirit drew people to him. He was a huge encourager, loved by many and had a generous heart. If you were able to get close to him, you knew that he didn’t mind telling it like it was. His honesty built many sustaining relationships with family members and friends. He was one who was always full of joy, no matter what.

Then suddenly, on June 17, 2017, Darnell made his transition from this life on earth, into life eternal.

Darnell was preceded in death by his grandmothers, Anita Hill and Carol Keahna; and one grandfather, John Johnson, Sr.

His unforgettable memories will always stay with his mother, Joleen Johnson; father, Arthur T. Lee, Jr.; daughter, Z’Nasia Lee; brothers, Earl Colton, Darris Lee and Arthur Lee, Jr.; sisters, Kaylyn Lee, Tyrae Lee, Tabitha Lee and Jamaria Rice; 24 nieces and nephews and a plethora of extended family, friends and loved ones.

Darnell is buried at the Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.

About Jason Smith (from obituary)

Jason Allen Smith was born May 26, 1987, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Charles Lee and Clarice Smith. He was tragically taken from this life on Saturday, June 17, 2017, at the age of 30.

Left to mourn him are his beloved 8-year-old son, his pride and joy, Jaydan Smith; his mother, Clarice Smith; his father, Charlie Lee; his maternal siblings, Candice Smith (Lance) and Marguerite Moore-Rotich (Robby); paternal siblings, Verna Williams and Charlie Lee Jr.; and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, other loving relatives and many special friends.

Jason Smith gravestone

Jason Smith is buried at Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines. (Courtesy photo Katie Lou,

Greeting him in Heaven are his stepfather, Sammy Kemp Sr.; brother, Sammy Kemp Jr.; grandparents, Gerald C. and Margaret Smith and Rosita Lee.

 Jason’s family was his life.

He loved listening to music, spending time with family, and working on cars.


Visitation began at 9 a.m. Friday, June 30, 2017, followed immediately by funeral services at 11 a.m. at Faith Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 131 9th Street, West Des Moines, IA 50265.

Jason was laid to rest in Glendale Cemetery, Des Moines, following his services.

Information Needed

If you have any information about the unsolved murders of Darnell Lee and Jason Smith, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4811 or Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa at 515-223-1400. A tip may also be submitted online at



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