Prosecutors upgraded charges Monday against two Lynchburg teens accused in an April slaying at the Millwoods apartments, leaving one boy charged with capital murder.
Raheem Johnson, the alleged triggerman, was indicted on a charge of capital murder, breaking and entering, two counts of attempted robbery and four counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Felmlee said he will not seek the execution of Johnson, a 17-year-old, because it is barred both by the U.S. Constitution and Virginia law.
“If convicted of capital murder, he would spend the rest of his life in prison,” Felmlee said in explaining why the charge was upgraded from the original charge of first-degree murder. The severity of the crime was also a factor, he said.
Johnson is accused of forcing his way into 20-year-old Timothy Irving’s apartment, then shooting him in the head in front of his fiancée and their child.
Under all but capital murder convictions, inmates who have served at least 10 years of a prison sentence are eligible for release at age 60. Those who have served at least five years may be released at age 65. Thirty inmates have been released under the geriatric parole program since 2002, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Capital murder charges require an aggravating factor in the commission of a premeditated murder — in this case, attempted robbery.
Co-defendant Dennis Watts Jr., 19, was indicted Monday on a count of felony murder, two counts of attempted robbery and three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony.
Virginia law allows a defendant to be charged with felony murder when a person dies in the commission of a felony – attempted robbery in this case, Felmlee explained. It is punished as second-degree murder.
Until Monday, Watts had only been charged with possession of ammunition by a felon.
At a preliminary hearing last week, ArTenna Horsley-Robey described how Johnson and Watts forced their way into the apartment she shared with Irving and their two-year-old son.
Horsley-Robey testified she was in bed when the men knocked on the door shortly after midnight on April 11. They followed Irving back to their bedroom, then ordered her out of bed at gunpoint to lie on the ground, she said.
She said for several minutes the men yelled at Irving to “give it up” before shooting him in the head in front of her and their toddler.
Lynchburg police Detective Jerry Hise testified Johnson told investigators he went to Irving’s apartment because he owed him some marijuana and he had bought drugs from Irving in the past.
Watts was found by police at his girlfriend’s apartment in the same complex as Irving’s within an hour of the slaying, Felmlee said at an earlier hearing. He said then that a search of the apartment turned up a bag of bullets and a ski mask.
Horsley-Robey said she could identify both men in spite of Watts wearing a mask and Johnson having coat and hood pulled up around his face. Johnson’s lawyers have attacked her ability to make the identifications.
“He still carries the presumption of innocence,” said Leigh Drewry, a second defense attorney appointed Monday morning for Johnson.
Both men remain jailed without bond. Johnson was transferred to the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center last week under court order. He turns 18 on June 14. Trial dates have not been set.