Ryan B. Williams
When a judge dismissed the murder charge levied against Ryan Williams in a May 2013 preliminary hearing, the Leesburg man described himself as “untouchable.”
The Commonwealth Attorney's Office disagreed, gathering enough evidence to refile and get Williams indicted in August.
And after five days of trial and nearly two days of deliberation, a jury on June 16 found Williams guilty of murder in the 2012 shooting death of JoVaughn Jasper Johnson.
Judge Thomas Horne is scheduled to sentence Williams Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. Because Virginia is a no-parole state, Williams will be required to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.
The court gallery, full of Johnson’s family and friends, including his mother, sister and brother, let out an explosive sigh of relief as Horne read out the sentence, with many bursting into tears and sharing emotional embraces.
“I feel 100 pounds lighter,” said Elita Johnson, JoVaughn Johnson’s elder sister. “I feel like each day will be easier now.”
JoVaughn Johnson, 30, was found murdered in his car, parked near Great Trail Terrace and Trail Run Terrace in Sterling, Dec. 27, 2012. He had been shot five times, including in the face, and his body wasn’t found for several hours.
“I wasn’t there to hold his hand or help him cross over,” said Johnson’s mother, Mary Marvin, through sobs. “No one should have to die alone.”
“It’s indescribable the pain I’m carrying around, that my family is carrying around. It’s like there’s a Grand Canyon-sized hole.” Marvin told the jury during sentencing. “One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures in the universe.”
The defense requested leniency in sentencing for what defense attorney Lindsay Hendrix described as a “10-second lapse of judgment.”
“Please give his mother a chance to hug him again. Please give his children a chance to hug him again,” Hendrix said.
But as Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Rosen enumerated Williams’s previous crimes, including possession of cocaine, drug distribution, domestic assault and battery, offensive touching and reckless endangerment, he framed the situation differently.
“He went to a parking lot to eradicate a life, to murder another man,” Rosen said. “This was an assassination.”
According to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Alex Amato and Rosen, Williams killed Johnson for “snitching” on an earlier shooting case.
Much of the prosecution’s case relied on the testimony of Linsey Hardwick, Williams' then girlfriend. Hardwick picked Williams up Dec. 27, 2012 and drove the pair to Sterling, at Williams’s request. Once they arrived, Williams got out of Hardwick’s car and walked out of Hardwick’s view to Johnson’s car. After 20 minutes or so, Hardwick testified she heard four or five pops. Williams then returned to her car, where she saw he had two 9 mm Glock handguns. The pair would then drive to Delaware, take apart the guns and throw them out the window.
The weapons have never been recovered.
Hardwick then drove Williams to Colonial Beach, Virginia.
In September, Hardwick pleaded guilty to accessory after murder after originally being charged with first degree murder for her role. She is scheduled to be sentenced June 27.
In addition to Hardwick’s testimony, cell phone records showed cell phones from Hardwick and Williams “pinging” towers near the crime scene.
Eric Smith, whom Williams stayed with at Colonial Beach, said Williams confessed his crime to him; Venus Chand, who was incarcerated with Williams in Alexandria, testified Williams also confessed to him.
But defense questioned the circumstantial case, noting that there was no physical evidence to place Williams in Johnson’s SUV, and argued three of the witnesses, Hardwick, Williams and Chand had little credibility and were merely using testifying as a way to get leniency in their own sentences.
Prosecution pointed out that Chand, who has been in jail for several years and didn’t know any of the people involved, was still able to corroborate the details of the confession.