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Criminal Justice

Bank Robber Successfully Trades ‘Hellish’ Florida Prison for Cali—Thanks, in Part, to a False Confession

Written by Joe Burn, Jonah Owen LambPublished Nov. 07, 2022 • 2:10pm
Google Street View shows Hotel des Arts at 447 Bush St., formerly the Alisa Hotel. Roy Donovan Lacy claimed that he stabbed Kameron Sengthavy at the hotel in 1999.

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A bank robber who falsely admitted he was responsible for two unsolved San Francisco killings in a bid to escape a “hellish” Florida prison has succeeded in his attempts to relocate to California—despite the jury acquitting him of the local murders.

In 2018, Roy Donovan Lacy wrote to two semi-retired SFPD inspectors confessing to a pair of unsolved city killings that had been relegated to cold case status—a stabbing in 1999 and a shooting in 2000. At the time, he was serving a sentence in the Sunshine State for bank robberies.

The case was picked up in 2018 and brought to trial in San Francisco by prosecutor Andrew Clark. Lacy was moved from Florida to San Francisco County Jail that year.

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office said that Lacy falsely confessed to the two murders as a way to get out of Florida so that he could be closer to his family. They also said that while at the “hellish” Florida prison, Lacy was subjected to extreme violence—including being robbed, beaten and having his femur broken.

A jury ultimately acquitted Lacy on Nov. 3, the Public Defender’s Office said in a statement Monday.

Roy Donovan Lacy falsely confessed to two murders that took place in California from his Florida jail cell. | Courtesy Florida Department of Corrections

But Lacy is now in the California penal system for good, just as he wanted. While his Florida prison term has been completed, he was also previously sentenced to a Three Strikes life sentence in California for bank robberies in Marin County (he was serving time in Florida concurrently). He will now be transferred to a California state prison facility.

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Around the time of the San Francisco murders Lacy said he committed, he was an 18-year-old runaway in a personal relationship with a person who defense attorneys said committed one of the two killings but has since died.

Despite Lacy’s knowledge of the crimes, the details he provided in writing and in a video confession did not match any of the witness statements from 1999. There was no physical evidence tying him to either case.

The jury returned an acquittal for the murders on the first count in under an hour. The jury then hung on the second count with eight jurors voting guilty and four not guilty.

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Joe Burn can be reached at [email protected]
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]


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