A Duluth man accused of stabbing another man to death at a Norcross hotel in 2019 has been convicted of murder in the case, according to the Gwinnett District Attorney’s Office.
In one of the first jury trails held in more than a year in Gwinnett — and one of the first criminal cases to go to trial since new District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson took office — Donald Steel, 22, was recently convicted on felony murder and aggravated assault for the September 2019 stabbing death of Kevin McGruder Jr.
Steel was sentenced to life in prison.
The murder happened at the Guest Inn on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard on Sept. 24, 2019, and Norcross police had, at the time, said the stabbing occurred during a drug deal. The DA’s office said Steele met with McGruder to buy $40 worth of THC cartridges and Steele claimed the victim took his money but did not hand over the cartridges.
“Video surveillance from the hotel showed the Defendant and McGruder engaged in a struggle,” the DA’s office said. “The surveillance video also showed an unarmed McGruder running away as he was being chased by the Defendant who had a knife.
“By this time, McGruder had already been stabbed and fell to the ground. The Defendant then took the $40 back from McGruder, and stabbed him a final time.”
Steele walked away from McGruder, who had managed to walk a short distance before falling to the ground as witnesses tried to offer aid to him, according the DA’s office. Prosecutors said Steele remained at the scene of the crime, albeit a short distance away from where McGruder was. McGruder had three stab wounds.
Steele told police that he got McGruder for taking his money without giving him the cartridges, and that McGruder had threatened him.
“At trial, the Defendant claimed that he was acting in self-defense,” prosecutors said. “However, the evidence showed that McGruder did not have a weapon of any kind.”
Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Sabrina Nizam and Assistant District Attorney Kelsey Kolb prosecuted the case while Lawrenceville attorney Lawrence Lewis represented Steele at the trial.
Jury trials had been on hold in Georgia for 13 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a judicial emergency that lasted more than a year. The DA’s Office said safety protocols were followed to keep people safe during the trial.