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Murder trial in 2012 slaying begins

Ryan B. Williams

Shortly after Christmas, on Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. in Sterling Park, Loudoun County Sheriff's deputies responded to requests for a welfare check. Arriving near the intersection of Trail Run and Great Trail terraces, police came across a 2002 white Mercedes Benz SUV. In it sat Jovaughn Jasper Johnson, 30, of Sterling, body marred with five bullet holes, including three in the face and one in the hand, as though he was defending himself.

Now, more than a year-and-a-half after the slaying, the man accused of killing Johnson, Ryan Blaine Williams, now 33, of Leesburg, is facing trial for first-degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

After a nearly three-hour jury selection process, both attorneys made opening statements June 9 in front of a jury of six women and eight men, to include two alternates.

Prosecution believes Williams, was driven to Sterling by then-girlfriend Linsey Hardwick, now 24, of Leesburg. Once at the park, Williams met Johnson and fired five shots from the passenger seat, retribution for “snitching” before returning to Hardwick's car, where Hardwick admitted in previous hearings she saw him tuck a gun in the waistband of his pants. Hardwick would then drive Williams to Dover, Del. and then Colonial Beach before returning home. Williams was ultimately arrested Feb. 12, 2013, in Colonial Beach.

Hardwick pleaded guilty Sept. 25, to accessory to murder after the fact and will be a key witness for the prosecution. Her sentence is scheduled for June 27, after she testifies against Williams. She is expected to take the stand June 11.

“This is a circumstantial case, yes,” Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Alex Amato told jurors. “But this is as close to the strongest circumstantial case you can get.”

“You don't need a smoking gun to convict Mr. Williams,” she said.

But Williams' defense, Eric Demetriades and Lindsay Hendrix, offered a different perspective, painting the entire investigation as broken and disorganized.

“There are many gaps in the roadway to conviction,” Hendrix said.

In her opening statement in which she enumerated the gaps, Hendrix noted that scientific and physical evidence doesn't match the commonwealth's rendition of events. She also said evidence was mishandled, sometimes mislabeled and witnesses were often barraged into confessing toward the commonwealth's narrative.

Hendrix also discredited many of the witnesses, of which there are 30, observing that many of them are drug abusers and convicted felons.

“No one is denying that Jovaughn was killed violently in his own car on Dec. 27, 2012. It was a tragedy,” Hendrix said. “But what we're here to do is defend Ryan Williams in this case. What you'll see is that there are many people who could have killed Jovaughn.”

The commonwealth will present its case over the next several days. Court was not in session June 10, due to scheduling problems, but will continue through June 14. Breaking for Sunday, the court is expected to at least run for a half-day on June 16, with a verdict likely that week.


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