LANCASTER – Imagine the grief of losing your mother combined with the horror of facing a murder charge in connection with her death? That was the reality last year for 19-year-old Destiny Hammack.
Her mother, 62-year-old Diane Hammack, was found dead in their Lancaster home on April 14, 2019. Destiny was arrested that day, charged with murder two days later, and locked in jail for six months before charges were quietly dismissed in October. Destiny made contact with The AV Times recently to tell her story.
April 14, 2019
On the morning of Sunday, April 14, 2019, Destiny followed up a night of heavy drinking with even more drinking. She was “drunk and out of it” when she heard a scream from the bathroom where her mother was taking a shower.
“I knocked down her bathroom door and found her on the floor, foaming from the mouth,” Destiny recalled, adding that her mother, a lifelong type 2 diabetic, was most likely having a seizure. Panicked and in the midst of a brain fog, Destiny searched for her cell phone before running out the front door and down the street.
“I was freaking out. I found someone random to call 9-1-1… I ended up wetting myself and passing out,” Destiny said.
When the ambulance came, “they took me and they knew nothing about my mom,” Destiny said, adding that she frantically told the hospital staff to go check on her mother.
“They called me an Uber home… They sent the police with me and that’s when they went inside and found my mom,” Destiny said.
“It’s my fault! I killed her!”
Lancaster Sheriff’s Station deputies responded around 2 p.m. to the Hammack home on the 45300 block of Seventh Street East, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff’s officials said Diane Hammack was found in her bedroom, she had “suffered blunt force trauma to her upper torso,” and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Destiny said her mother was sprawled on the floor in a robe, and she “had her ID out like she knew she was passing.”
“I was in a state of psychosis, I had just lost my mom,” Destiny said. “I cried and I cried… I told them, ‘It’s my fault! I killed her!’”
Asked why she thought it was her fault, Destiny said she felt guilty for “stealing” the ambulance that could have possibly saved her mother.
Destiny said she was questioned by deputies while still struggling to make sense of it all.
“A lot of questions they were asking me, I was confused. I didn’t even know if anything I saw was real,” Destiny recalled.
Destiny was arrested at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, 2019. She was charged with one count of murder on April 16, 2019, and jailed at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood.
“I was explaining my story but I could tell people didn’t really believe me,” Destiny said.
“My family didn’t contact me for four months. I had to write a letter to my mother’s house,” Destiny added.
The letter that changed everything
As a last-ditch effort, Destiny wrote a letter explaining her side of the story and mailed it to her mother’s home. Her older sister then contacted her and came to visit. That’s when things began to turn around.
Destiny’s sister and her defense attorney worked to advocate on Destiny’s behalf, while Destiny worked to better herself.
“I started going to church and turning to religion, and it really helped me while I was in there,” Destiny said. “It kept me sane.”
The murder charge against Destiny was formally dismissed on Oct. 18, 2019, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“The prosecutor told the court that we were unable to proceed. The defense made a motion to dismiss, and the judge granted the motion. We do not intend to refile,” LADA Public Information Officer Shiara Davila-Morales said via email. She directed further inquiries to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
Diane Hammack’s death was ruled “undetermined,” according to the coroner’s office.
Specifically, her autopsy report states: “Diane Pamilton Hammack died as a result of blunt force craniocervical trauma with the other significant condition of diabetes mellitus. The manner of death is undetermined.”
Destiny said her mother “had a bump on her forehead from falling but she died from slipping into a diabetic coma.”
“All I had to do was not be drunk”
At the time of her death, Diane Hammack was retired for two years from the Pasadena Post Office, Destiny said. The two lived together in relative harmony in their Lancaster home.
“My mom was a ray of sunshine. She was goofy, she was silly, she would make normal day tasks fun for me,” Destiny recalled. “She gave me a great childhood.”
These days, Destiny is working on her sobriety, trying to further her education and struggling to overcome the guilt she still feels in connection to her mother’s death.
“I’m trying really hard to forgive myself and I think I will be able too,” Destiny said. “I know I couldn’t have stopped her death but I probably could have given her a more comfortable one. She could’ve died in a hospital bed, said goodbye to family, if it wasn’t for me. All I had to do was not be drunk.”
“I have lost some friends, and some of my family [members] still haven’t contacted me, so I don’t know if they believe me or even know that I’m out [of jail] right now,” Destiny continued.
“[This experience] has taught me that your life can change quickly. But I want people to know that there is always hope and people will believe in you, so don’t give up. I sometimes thought I would be in prison for the rest of my life, but I kept hope in my head. Never lose hope especially if you’re innocent.”
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