Lynchburg man found guilty in murder trial - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Lynchburg man found guilty in murder trial

Posted:
By Dave Thompson

UPDATE:

The second man accused in the early-morning shooting of a Lynchburg man in front of his fiancée and child was found guilty in Lynchburg Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Dennis Watts Jr. sat still in the courtroom as a judge found Watts guilty in the murder of 20-year-old Timothy Antoine Irving last April. Irving’s family members quietly cried.

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge Leyburn Mosby convicted Watts of first-degree murder, attempted robbery, burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, abduction and four counts of use of a firearm, for participating in the April 11, 2011 shooting.

Irving’s step-father, Charles Woolfolk, kissed a picture of his step-son after court recessed.

Watts, 21, clad in an orange jumpsuit, testified in his own defense Tuesday in the second day of his trial.

Wattssaid in the overnight hours of April 10, he went to the Mill Woods apartment complex off Graves Mill Road with Raheem Johnson, who was convicted of the murder last month.

After wandering around the complex in search of cigarettes and to clear his head, Watts said, he showed up to the P building, where Irving lived with his fiancée, Artenna Horsley-Robey.

There, he said, he ran into Johnson’s brother, Quinton Johnson, who asked him to go to Irving’s apartment to buy marijuana.

Watts said he was let into the apartment and began a transaction with Irving, when the Johnson brothers rushed in, Raheem carrying a gun.

They forced Watts onto the ground, he testified, and then proceeded into the back bedroom where Irving was shot. Watts said he fled the building before the shot was fired.

Testifying Monday, a witness who lived in the same building said she distinctly heard two people go up the steps right before the shooting, and two people run down the steps immediately after.

Horsley-Robey testified Monday that Raheem Johnson ordered her to the ground, then forced Irving onto the floor near a closet in the bedroom, shooting him while Watts stood in the doorway.

Prosecutors established Monday through phone records that someone using a phone number registered to Watts’ mother called Syria Franklin at 11:56 p.m., around the time Watts admitted to calling Franklin to tell her she had driven past him while trying to pick him up.

Franklin on Monday acknowledged receiving the call.

Watts said he was in possession of his phone before, during and after the time of the homicide.

But regarding a text message sent from that same number, Watts said he didn’t specifically remember whether that was his number.

Watts denied sending the message asking to meet at someone’s grandmother’s house, and that the sender still had the “strap,” a word police said is street slang for a gun.

Watts’ defense team tried to cast doubt on Horsley-Robey’s identification of Watts because she said she couldn’t see his facial features due to the stocking cap pulled over the man’s face.

Defense attorney Andrew Childress claimed Horsley-Robey only identified Watts because Irving told her he was at the door.

Cross-examining Watts, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Felmlee asked if he recalled a conversation with a Wendell Franklin, who was housed next to him in the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center in 2011 and 2012.

He asked if Watts recalled telling Franklin, husband of Syria Franklin, that Watts had a gun, that he had given the gun to Raheem Johnson, that he was surprised when the gun went off, or that he was well-covered in clothing so he was confident Horsley-Robey couldn’t identify him.

Watts replied no.

Childress objected to that questioning as hearsay, but Mosby allowed the questions.

In closing arguments, Felmlee noted even though Watts was not the triggerman, he was, under Virginia law, a “principal in the second degree” as an accomplice to Raheem Johnson’s actions and responsible for the same crimes.

He called Horsley-Robey’s testimony “a bazillion times more credible” than Watts’ testimony.

Quinton Johnson has not been charged in the case, and Felmlee said afterward there are no plans to bring charges against him.

Childress said afterwards he believed Horsley-Robey “made a terrible but innocent mistake” in her identification of Watts.

He maintained Watts was “duped” by the Johnson brothers, and tricked into getting the door opened so they could rob Irving.

He called the decision “a terrible letdown for our client and his family,” and said he didn’t regret putting Wattson the stand, because “the truth never hurts.”

After the trial, Felmlee said positive identification was difficult to prove since Watts was wearing a hat over his face, but all the evidence combined made a solid case.

He said it has been a trying time for Irving’s family, who through court officials declined to make a statement.

“They miss their son, and his son misses his father,” Felmlee said.

He said the commonwealth intends to seek “very significant sentences” for Johnson and Watts when they are sentenced on Sept. 14 and Sept. 21 respectively.

EARLIER:

A judge found a Lynchburg man guilty today on eight counts related to the murder of another city man in April of 2011.

Judge Leyburn Mosby found Dennis Dean Watts Jr. guilty of first-degree murder, attempted robbery, statutory burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, and four use-of-a-firearm charges in the slaying of Timothy Antoine Irving on April 11, 2011.

Watts testified in his own defense Tuesday, claiming he had no knowledge the night before or the morning of the homicide that the robbery was going to take place.

Watts said he went to the Mill Woods apartment complex off Graves Mill Road with Raheem Johnson, who was convicted of the murder last month, in the late night hours of Aug. 10.

After wandering around the complex in search of cigarettes and to clear his head, Watts said, he showed up to the P building, where Irving lived with his fiancée, Artenna Horsley-Robey.

There, he said, he ran into Johnson's brother, Quinton Johnson, who asked him to go to Irving's apartment to buy some marijuana.

Watts said he went to that apartment, knocked on the door, was let in and began a marijuana transaction with Irving, when the Johnson brothers rushed in, Raheem carrying a gun.

They forced Watts onto the ground, he testified, and then proceeded into the back bedroom where Irving was shot. Watts said he fled the building before the shot was fired, and didn't know what went on in the bedroom.

Watts' defense team tried to cast doubt on Horsley-Robey's testimony that she knew Watts was in the bedroom, particularly because she said she couldn't see any facial features due to a stocking cap the man had pulled over his face. 

Mosby found Watts guilty of all eight charges, and set a sentencing date of Sept. 21. Raheem Johnson is set to be sentenced Sept. 14.

Quinton Johnson has not been charged in the case, and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Felmlee said afterward there are no plans to bring any charges against him.

 

Earlier:

The second suspect in the murder of a Lynchburg man, gunned down in front of his fiancée and two-year-old child, is expected to take the stand in his own defense today.

The trial for Dennis Dean Watts, Jr., 21, in the April 11, 2011 slaying of Timothy Irving, began Monday with Irving’s fiancée testifying about the events that began shortly after midnight.

Artenna Horsley-Robey said she could not see the man’s eyes, nose or mouth as he stood in her bedroom doorway while, just a few feet away, another man threatened and eventually killed  her fiancé.  

But in court Monday, she said she was “a thousand percent” certain the man without the gun was the defendant known around town as “little D.”

Horsley-Robey, now 21, testified Monday that Watts acted in concert with Raheem Johnson, who was convicted of Irving’s murder last month.

Watts faces eight charges, including first-degree murder, attempted robbery of Irving, abduction and burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and four counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

Horsley-Robey testified she and Irving had been saving up money to take a trip to Atlanta for her birthday in July, and that Watts commonly bought marijuana from her fiancé.

Shortly after midnight April 11, 2011, she said, Johnson and Watts showed up at her apartment, with Johnson waving a gun, ordering her onto the floor, and telling Irving to “give it up,” before shooting him in their bedroom closet while their two-year-old son slept on the bed.

She testified she identified Watts from his height, weight, build and style of clothing, especially since she had known him for more than a year.

She described Watts as wearing a black hoodie and a black stocking cap pulled over his face.

Officer J.J. Rater said he responded to the scene and shortly thereafter found the apartment where Watts stayed off and on with his girlfriend.

He said while he was speaking to Watts, the defendant’s eyes were drawn multiple times to a black stocking cap on the living room floor.

Officers recovered the cap, along with a 3XL size hoodie and a box of .380 ammunition from that apartment in the same complex where Irving was killed.

Officer John Pelletier testified the shell casing found in the closet of Irving’s apartment was from a 9mm round.

He also testified investigators took DNA buccal swabs from Johnson and Watts.

Kevin Flint, who worked for the Virginia Department of Forensic Scientist at the time, testified Watts’ DNA swab “could not be ruled out” as a match for a sample taken from the hat.

The odds of finding another sample that could not be ruled out, he said, were about one in 6.5 billion, roughly the world’s population.

Dr. Gayle Suzuki, with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner testified Irving died of a gunshot wound to the head, from a gun that, if not quite in contact with Irving’s head, was at very close range.

The woman who said she gave Watts and Johnson a ride to the Mill Woods apartment complex the night of April 10 also testified.

Syria Franklin, a former cab driver, said she talked on the phone that night with Watts, who asked if she could drive him to the complex.

She testified she picked him up on Pierce Street, along with Johnson, and dropped them off near the P building, where Irving lived, shortly after midnight.

Cell phone records showed a phone call placed at 11:56 p.m. to Franklin’s phone from a phone registered to Watts’ mother.

Lacree Perkins, Watts’ girlfriend at the time, testified that was the number Watts used, and he still was using it around the time of the shooting.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Felmlee introduced as evidence a text message sent from that phone, asking about meeting at a grandmother’s house, and the sender still has “da strap.”

Police testified Monday “strap” is street slang for a gun.

An nTelos official testified the text was sent from the phone registered to Watts’ mother.

The prosecution rested its case shortly before 4 p.m.

After a recess, the defense called Perkins, who had a child with Watts at the time, and was pregnant with another, as its own witness.

Perkins testified when Watts came into her house sometime after midnight, he was wearing only a black t-shirt and gray sweatpants.

She said he left, then came back, appearing nervous, but wearing the same clothes.

Felmlee asked her if she recalled telling police Watts was wearing a dark hoodie and a knit hat.

She said she did not, after which Felmlee played a recording in which she tells police multiple times Watts was wearing a black hoodie and black knit hat.

Felmlee pointed out Perkins also told police, when they first responded to her apartment, Watts wasn’t there.

The defense briefly called Franklin as their own witness, and on cross-examination, Felmlee referenced a recording of her also talking with police, during which time she said Watts wore a dark hoodie.

Franklin testified she did not remember what she told police that night, other than something about a dark T-shirt.

Judge Leyburn Mosby recessed court until 9:30 a.m. today.

 

Updated 5:45 p.m.

The prosecution rested its case shortly before 4 p.m., after calling, among other witnesses, the woman who said she gave Watts and Raheem Johnson a ride to the Mill Woods apartment complex the night of April 10.

Syria Franklin, a former cab driver, said she talked on the phone that night with Watts, who asked if she could drive him to the complex.

She testified she picked him up on Pierce Street in her personal vehicle, along with Johnson, and dropped them off near the P building, where Irving lived, shortly after midnight.

After a brief recess, The defense called Lacree Perkins, who had one child with Watts at the time, and was pregnant with another.

Perkins testified when Watts came into her house sometime after midnight, he was wearing only a black t-shirt and gray sweat pants.

She said he left, then came back, appearing nervous, but still wearing the same clothes.

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Felmlee asked her if she recalled telling police Watts was wearing a dark hoodie and a knit hat.

She said she did not, after which Felmlee played a recording in which she tells police multiple times Watts was wearing a black hoodie and black knit hat.

The defense briefly called Franklin as their own witness.

Judge Leyburn Mosby recessed court until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Defense attorney Andrew Childress indicated, he plans to call Watts as the defense's final witness.

Updated 1:41 p.m.

Before recessing for lunch, police and expert witnesses testified about the crime scene and Watts' arrest at the Mill Woods apartment complex the morning of April 11.

Officer J.J. Rater said he responded to the scene and shortly thereafter found the apartment where Watts was staying.

He said while he was speaking to Watts, the defendant's eyes were drawn multiple times to a black stocking cap on the living room floor.

Officers recovered the cap, along with a 3XL size hoodie and a box of .380 ammunition from Watts apartment in the same complex where Irving was killed.

Officer John Pelletier testified the shell casing found in the closet of Irving's apartment was from a 9mm round.

Dr. Gayle Suzuki, with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner testified, as she did at Raheem Johnson's trial last month, that Irving died of a gunshot wound to the head, from a gun that, if not quite in contact with Irving's head, was at very close range.


Updated 11:26 a.m.

The fiancée of a man shot and killed in his Lynchburg apartment in April of 2011 testified in court Monday she was "a thousand percent certain" Dennis Watts Jr. was the second person in the room when the shooting happened.

The murder trial for Watts in the slaying of Timothy Irving started Monday.

Watts faces eight charges, including first-degree murder, attempted robbery, burglary and abduction, along with four related firearms charges.

Artenna Horsley-Robey testified Monday she was in the room with Irving in the early morning hours of April 11, 2011, when Irving opened the door for a man known a "Little D," a common nickname for Watts.

Watts, she said, stood in the bedroom's doorway while Raheem Johnson, already convicted in the fatal shooting, threatened her and Irving before shooting Irving in the head.

 

Earlier:

The bench trial for a man accused in the fatal shooting of a Lynchburg man in April 2011 is set to start this morning.

Dennis Watts Jr. faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

Watts is accused in the April 11, 2011 shooting of Timothy Irving at Irving's apartment off Graves Mill Road.

Another Lynchburg man, Raheem Johnson, has already been convicted in the murder, found guilty last month of murder, attempted robbery, burglary and firearms charges.

 

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