The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Fredericksburg man sentenced in murder case
RELATED: Idlewild man jailed in stabbing
BY KEITH EPPS
A Fredericksburg man has been ordered to serve 30 years in prison for killing a man he claims shorted him in a drug deal.Justin David Brunell, 21, received a 40-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended Wednesday in Fredericksburg Circuit Court. He previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Brunell stabbed 33-year-old Jermaine L. Samuel multiple times Oct. 11 with a KA–BAR knife near the corner of Charles and Pelham streets. The final blow went deep into Samuel’s heart.
Brunell later told police that he had paid Samuel for an “eight-ball” of cocaine but had received only half of it. He said he was tired of being ripped off by drug dealers.
Judge Gordon Willis’ sentence exceeded the recommended state sentencing guidelines, which called for a maximum penalty of just over 21 years in prison.
At Brunell’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, a psychiatrist testified that Brunell was “psychotic and delusional” when he killed Samuel and was influenced by voices in his head belonging to someone he referred to as “Jason.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney LaBravia Jenkins scoffed at Dr. James Sellman’s efforts to mitigate Brunell’s actions, saying the doctor was influenced by the $8,000 he received to testify.
According to the evidence presented by Jenkins, Brunell went to the Colonial Motel Oct. 11 to visit Samuel and Samuel’s girlfriend.
At some point, Samuel asked Brunell if he could use his car to go buy beer. Brunell gave Samuel the keys, and the victim left the motel room.
A short time later, Brunell also left the room, caught up with Samuel and stabbed him in the back and upper arm region.
Samuel ran a short distance, then fell against an SUV, where Brunell straddled him and stabbed him again, this time in the chest.
Witnesses saw Brunell running away while discarding a hoodie he’d been wearing. Police caught up with him a short time later in the area of Fredericksburg Shopping Center on Jefferson Davis Highway.
Brunell initially told police that he was with Samuel when a “black guy” came up and stabbed him.
But about five minutes into the interview, Brunell told police, “OK, OK, I gutted him. I killed him.”
Brunell helped police recover the knife he’d hidden after the slaying and has been in custody ever since. There were no drugs in the motel room that night, police said.
Less than a year before the slaying, according to testimony, Brunell called the police to report being cheated by a drug dealer. Detective Carlos Reyes said that dealer was not identified and Brunell was reminded that buying cocaine was illegal.
Before Willis pronounced sentence Wednesday, a sobbing Brunell apologized to Samuel’s family.
He said Samuel had been one of his regular dealers for about six months and “I killed him and I’m very sorry for what I did.”
Willis said it was a tragedy that should have never happened and called it “another example of how illegal drugs are detrimental to families and our community.”
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404