ELKTON — A woman charged with murder this week in the stabbing death of a man inside his Perryville apartment triggered a six-day-long manhunt in April 2019, after she escaped from a detention center near San Diego, Calif.
Destiny Marie Guns, 23, has the distinction of being the first – and only — inmate to escape from the Los Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee, Calif., which she did on April 6, 2019, five days after she had been arrested and jailed there for possession of a stolen vehicle, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Wednesday.
Guns gained notoriety in the San Diego region within several hours after her escape and during the following five days that she was on the lam, before she reportedly returned to that jail and surrendered herself to authorities.
With some of them describing her escape as “daring,” reporters with area newspapers and TV news crews extensively covered Guns’ escape, providing information concerning her personal and criminal background while she was eluding law enforcement officers on the hunt.
Guns also was the topic of hundreds of social media posts, some including photos of her, during the time that she was at large.
Fourteen months later
On Monday night, some 14 months after Guns’ jail escape garnered that widespread public attention in the San Diego area, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested Guns and charged her with second-degree murder, manslaughter, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.
In that Cecil County criminal case, Guns stands accused of stabbing Chad Thomas Petroulis, 25, to death inside his apartment in the 300 block of Mansion Drive during the early-morning hours of June 14, according to Lt. Michael Holmes, a CCSO spokesman, who further reported that Petroulis suffered a fatal wound to his upper torso.
CCSO detectives, who conducted two interviews with Guns, the last of which was halted abruptly after investigators revealed that new evidence purportedly contradicted information Guns had given earlier, believe that Guns stabbed Petroulis during an argument with him, Holmes said.
Guns maintained that she was not Petroulis’ girlfriend, but acknowledged that their relationship had an element of intimacy, he added.
Reported observations by a neighboring tenant helped investigators develop Guns as a suspect, according to Holmes.
He also reported that detectives viewed video gleaned from an apartment complex surveillance camera and saw a “female matching Ms. Guns’ description leaving the area” within the time frame of when the argument purportedly had occurred.
In addition, the investigation revealed that Guns “had spoken to (her) family members about the incident,” police reported.
A relative of Petroulis discovered his body inside the apartment at approximately 2 p.m. on June 15, after going there to check on him, and then that family member contacted authorities, police reported.
Guns, who was living in the unit block of Oxford Court in Perryville at the time of the June 14 incident, is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, according to Cecil County District Court records, which also indicate that she is scheduled for a July 22 preliminary hearing.
Cecil County jail inmate
After her bail review hearing on Tuesday, Guns, who was living in the unit block of Oxford Court in Perryville at the time of the June 14 slaying, remains in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond, court records show.
Chief Deputy Gerald Widdoes of the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the CCDC operation, told the Cecil Whig that, while it is noteworthy that Guns reportedly had escaped from that San Diego-area jail in April 2019, policies and procedures already in place at the detention center in Elkton would dictate how she will be treated as an inmate.
“We are aware,” Widdoes replied when asked if CCSO staff knew that Guns reportedly had escaped confinement in California. “As soon as we read the stories about it, we notified our command staff at the detention center. As far as doing anything differently because of it, however, we won’t.”
Widdoes explained that CCDC policies and procedures are designed to ensure the safety of all jail staff, including corrections officers, and to ensure the safety of all inmates.
Moreover, those policies and procedures are designed to ensure security inside the detention center and the safety of the public at large, which, translated, means there is a standard protocol to prevent inmates from escaping the facility, according to Widdoes.
Starting back in March, new policies aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 were blended with the existing policies, Widdoes said. As a result, Guns is in quarantine, where she will remain for approximately the next two weeks, before her transfer into general population in the unit for female inmates, he added.
“She (Guns) is in booking right now and is in quarantine for 14 days, which is our policy,” Widdoes reported.
Once she clears quarantine, Guns will be interviewed in the booking unit and jail officials will review her criminal history, before moving her into the women’s unit of the jail, he outlined.
San Diego to Cecil County
Aware through social media posts that Guns was incarcerated in that San Diego-area detention center in April 2019 as an inmate awaiting trial in a possession-of-a-stolen-vehicle case and that, after her jailbreak, she also was charged with escape, Widdoes said he and other CCSO officials are perplexed as to how Guns made her way back to Cecil County some 14 months later.
“We’re looking into it, her California criminal record,” Widdoes told the Cecil Whig. “Lt. Holmes has been trying to contact people out there to find out what happened.”
Citing state law, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on Guns’ criminal cases in its jurisdiction when the Cecil Whig inquired if Guns had been acquitted or convicted.
The Cecil Whig also asked San Diego County Sheriff’s Office officials to specify the sentence or sentences Guns’ received – if she had been convicted – and also how much of those penalties did she actually serve in jail or prison before her release. (San Diego County Sheriff’s Office officials asked that those Whig inquiries be made in an email. They, in turn, responded in like form.)
“Criminal history information is not disclosable under the California Public Records Act. Per P.C. 13302, it is illegal in the state of California to release someone’s criminal history information. It is only need-to-know such as law enforcement or courts. We are unable to assist you with your request,” replied Melissa Aquino, a media relations spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office.
An online search of San Diego County criminal cases showed several in which a “Destiny Guns,” a “Destiny Marie Guns” and a “Destiny M. Guns,” all with a November 1997 birth month, was listed as the defendant. (Cecil County court records and information released by law enforcement, after Guns’ escape, show Destiny Marie Guns’ birthdate a Nov. 1, 1997.)
However, messages indicating “This case has not been imaged,” and, “This case has not been microfilmed” appeared when the Cecil Whig attempted to access those online files.
An attempt to reach a spokesperson in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office by phone on Thursday to gain information concerning the adjudication of Guns’ criminal cases was unsuccessful. (The San Diego District Attorney’s Office, which, similar to the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office, prosecutes defendants in criminal cases.)
While Guns was on the lam after her April 2019 jail escape, some of her criminal record was revealed to the public by law enforcement officials, however, as they cautioned citizens that an escaped inmate was on the loose, according to old news releases that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office furnished the Cecil Whig.
“Guns has prior convictions for shoplifting and theft-related offenses,” the San Diego County Crime Stoppers listed in a press release issued on April 7, 2019, a day after Guns had escaped.
In that press release, the San Diego County Crime Stoppers offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could provide information leading to Guns’ arrest.
A search of Cecil County court records dating back to 2015, when Guns would have been 18, revealed that she had two criminal cases filed against her in the past five years, not counting the current attempted murder case against her.
In August 2015, Guns pleaded guilty to possession or distribution of illegal drug equipment, a charge relating to a Maryland State Police arrest in May 2015, and she was placed on supervised probation, which, as one of its conditions, required her to complete the Cecil County Adult Drug Court program, according to Cecil County Circuit Court records. At the time, Guns’ address was listed in court records as the 1000 block of Winch Road near Port Deposit.
Then on Feb. 12, 2016, a bench warrant charging Guns with violation of probation in that criminal case was issued, court records show. Moreover, court documents indicate Guns’ “unsuccessful completion” of drug court and her termination from that program on Nov. 8. One week later, on Nov. 15, court docket entries show, “VOP Outcome: Closed Unsatisfactorily.”
In her other Cecil County criminal case on record, prosecutors dismissed a possession of marijuana charge and two related offenses, all misdemeanors, against Guns on March 9, some three months before she allegedly stabbed Petroulis’ to death inside his Perryville apartment.
Those dropped charges relate to an MSP trooper arresting Guns in June 2015, court records show. A bench warrant was issued for Guns’ arrest in March 2016 after she allegedly failed to appear for a court hearing, according to court records.
Guns was residing at that same Winch Road address at the time of her second criminal case in Cecil County, court records show.
Guns’ 2019 jail escape
Guns’ escape from the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee occurred between 5:35 p.m. on April 6, 2019, when she was last seen at that jail, and 6:05 p.m. that day, when she was discovered missing, according to a releases posted by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office and the San Diego County Crime Stoppers in conjunction with the San Diego County Fugitive Task Force.
“Be on the lookout for Destiny Guns who escaped custody from the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee. Guns was last seen wearing blue pants and a white t-shirt or white sports bra. She may be barefoot. She is known to frequent the Santee area . . . Her last known location was in a field on the southwest side of the facility. All other inmates at Las Colinas Reentry and Detention Facility have been accounted for,” read an alert posted on social media by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office on April 6, 2019, shortly after her escape.
Anyone who saw Guns was directed to call 911.
That message also read, “Guns has no violent history. She was arrested on April 1 (2019) on charges of possessing a stolen car. There is increased law enforcement activity in the area of Cottonwood Avenue and Mission Gorge Road in Santee as Sheriff’s ASTREA search overhead with Deputies on the ground.”
Media reports from that time indicate that Guns, then 22, escaped while returning from a medical appointment on the detention center grounds and that, because she was classified as a low-level inmate with no history of violence, Guns was permitted to move to and from designated areas, for specified reasons, without guard escort.
Although law enforcement and jail officials declined to expound on how Guns was able to escape, news outlets in that area reported that it involved Guns somehow scaling walls and jumping fences enclosing the detention center complex.
Media reports also indicate that Guns had planned her escape to some degree, noting that she had gotten ahold of street clothes and had changed into them at some point. Those reports also indicate that Guns had discarded her inmate uniform, which would have made her look conspicuous in public, and that her prison garb was found in an open field near the jail during the initial search, which involved officers on foot, tracking dogs, and helicopter crews.
Law enforcement officials in that area described Guns as 5’2,” 100 pounds, with green eyes and brown hair in social media posts. Supplying accompanying photos, law enforcement officials also reported that Guns had an elephant head tattoo on her right arm, with the word “Mom” inked below that artwork and a tattoo of the word “Grasshopper” on her upper left chest.
Media reports from that time indicate that Guns was captured on April 11, 2019, six days later, counting the night that she escaped. Some news outlets reported that Guns returned to that detention center and surrendered herself to authorities, before she was rebooked and held on a $100,000 bond.
Later in April 2019, media outlets in that area also reported that Guns pleaded “not guilty” to six charges that related to her jail escape.