Tue. May 28th, 2024

On March 3, 2022, Nzengeli Mfwamba went to the Champaign County Courthouse in Illinois seeking an emergency order of protection against his daughter’s boyfriend.

The 49-year-old father had forbidden Dominic A. Fortune from entering his house, but had recently caught him hiding in his daughter’s closet.

The court denied the emergency order, ruling it needed to hear from both sides, and scheduled a follow-up hearing for March 28. Mr. Mfwamba and Fortune both attended that hearing, but Fortune requested a continuance to hire an attorney. Another hearing was set for April 28.

A week later, Mr. Mfwamba was dead. Surveillance cameras outside his house in west Champaign captured Fortune waiting for Mr. Mfwamaba to get home from work on April 5 before hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer.

Fortune then stabbed Mr. Mfwamba 17 times and carried his body into a nearby trash can.

Champaign County Judge Roger Webber sentenced Fortune on Monday to 42 years in prison after he pleaded guilty on Oct. 10 to murdering Mr. Mfwamba.

“At the time, I just thought it was me or him,” Fortune said, testifying beforehand that he was on numerous drugs that night and had “wholeheartedly” believed Mr. Mfwamba was planning on selling his child to an African warlord. Fortune has a child with Sephora Mfwamba, Mr. Mfwamba’s daughter.

Assistant State’s Attorney Troy Lozar called Detective Jody Cherry to the stand, who testified that Fortune confessed he murdered Mr. Mfwamba shortly after he was arrested.

Fortune told police he had driven to Champaign from Chicago that day with the plan to confront Mr. Mfwamba, but he wasn’t sure from the outset whether he was going to kill him, Cherry said.

Fortune told police he stole spray paint from a Dollar General hours before the murder and obstructed the view of several surveillance cameras outside Mr. Mfwamba’s home and a neighbor’s home. Fortune also stole duct-tape, gloves, and the knife he used to kill Mr. Mfwamba, Cherry said.

Lozar called Sephora to the stand, who testified that she was at her parent’s house when Fortune walked inside, locked the door and told her he had just killed her father.

Fortune told her that if she screamed or called the police, he would kill her, her two younger brothers, and their daughter, Sephora testified.

Fortune then went into the attic to retrieve the recording system that stored the surveillance cameras’ footage. He also asked her to help him use bleach to clean up the blood outside, Sephora said.

Fortune’s defense attorney Ed Piraino called his client’s father, Gerald Fortune, to the stand, who testified he received a call from his son that night.

Fortune told his father what he had done and Gerald called the police. Fortune soon ran from Mr. Mfwamba’s home and officers arrested him.

In exchange for Fortune’s guilty plea, the state agreed to cap its recommendation at 45 years. Lozar recommended Monday that Webber sentence Fortune to the full 45 years, highlighting how he sought to destroy evidence and Sephora’s testimony showed that Fortune was violent and abusive.

Sephora testified that Fortune got physical with her around 50 times — hitting and choking her and destroying her belongings. Sephora initiated the process to get an order of protection against Fortune three separate times.

Mr. Mfwamba eventually arranged that Fortune could only visit his child at the Mfwamba residence if Mr. Mfwamba was present. But Sephora said Fortune would sometimes sneak into the house through a window, and she didn’t always tell her parents because they would kick her out of the house if they knew.

Around one month before the murder, Mr. Mfwamba became suspicious Fortune was in the house and found him hiding in Sephora’s closet, she said.

Fortune ran outside and Mr. Mfwamba followed. Fortune threw something at her father and her father pulled out a kitchen knife, Sephora said. Then Fortune got into Mr. Mfwamba’s car and drove away.

Piraino recommended that his client be sentenced between 25 and 35 years in prison, emphasizing that Fortune never denied his actions, has no prior felony convictions, and that it was not “unreasonable” that Fortune cared about his child and feared that she was going to be taken from him.

Fortune testified that Sephora called him a couple months before the murder, crying because her father had tried to sell their child in Africa. Sephora testified that she had not heard this claim before and there was no truth to it. Cherry said he found no evidence to support the claim either.

Gerald testified that his son had told him he was worried about his child being sold as well, but he didn’t believe him. He added that his son had been diagnosed bipolar, manic depressive and had struggled with mood problems.

Fortune testified that he had used unprescribed Adderall twice per month since he was 17, eaten magic mushrooms at least twice a month since he was 19, and used coke and ecstasy every month since he was 20.

He used these drugs “find my wonderland” and for a outlet from his feelings, Fortune said.

Before receiving his sentence, Fortune apologized to members of Mr. Mfwamba’s family in the gallery, said he has been studying different religious beliefs in jail as he is trying to find “myself and God.”

“I’m not a bad man, I’m not a monster,” Fortune said. “I believed and I felt I was doing the right thing and I wish I knew what I knew now, because I would change everything about my behavior.”

Fortune must serve 100% of his sentence. He had credit for 632 days already served.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com