Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering Niece and Sister’s Boyfriend in Decatur Apartment

Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering Niece and Sister’s Boyfriend in Decatur Apartment
Royce Stewart

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announced a significant development in a murder case.

On Wednesday, Royce Stewart, aged 42, pleaded guilty to charges including two counts of Murder, two counts of Felony Murder, three counts of Aggravated Assault, Theft by Taking, and Possession of a Knife During Commission of a Felony.

The charges stem from the tragic events of March 25, 2018, when Stewart murdered his niece, Shykia Ward, aged 14, and his sister’s fiancé, Manuel Santos, aged 35, inside a Decatur apartment. According to the investigation, Stewart had been staying at his sister’s apartment for about a week leading up to the incident.

The horrifying ordeal unfolded around 9 a.m. when Stewart’s sister heard a struggle from her bathroom and witnessed her brother stabbing Santos in her bedroom. Attempting to intervene, she sustained injuries herself and promptly called 911. Stewart then fled the scene in his sister’s silver Mustang after taking her car keys.

When law enforcement arrived, they discovered Shykia deceased in her bedroom with multiple stab wounds, sparking widespread shock and grief in the community. Stewart was apprehended the following day and had been in custody since. His mental competency to stand trial was determined in February of this year.

Following Stewart’s guilty plea, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Tangela Barrie sentenced him to Life plus 35 years in prison. The prosecution was led by Director of Major Crimes Lance Cross, with support from Assistant District Attorney Emily Donkervoet, District Attorney Investigator Sam Woolwine, and Supervising Victim Advocate Ikwo Nyong.

The initial investigation was spearheaded by Decatur Police Department Sgt. Hensel.