Disturbance interrupts hearing in murder case
Murder charges against two of the four men accused of killing Fredericksburg resident Rodney D. Beanum Jr. last year were sent to a grand jury Tuesday following a contentious preliminary hearing.
Wesley Carlton Smith, 23, of Stafford County and John Edwin Pegram II, 24, are charged with first-degree murder and robbery.
Two other suspects, Lorenzo McKinley Jones, 19, of Clarksville, Tenn., and Diontae Treon Washington, 22, of Richmond, waived their preliminary hearings and are awaiting a resolution of their cases in Fredericksburg Circuit Court.
Beanum, 28, was gunned down early Nov. 24 on Howard Avenue in the Mayfield subdivision. He was shot 10 times—eight in the head and twice in the back.
The shooting apparently followed a robbery that had been planned earlier in the evening, according to testimony.
The three-hour hearing in Fredericksburg General District Court featured heavier-than-usual security.
The extra security came in handy, especially at one point when several men interrupted the proceedings by exchanging heated words and appeared on the verge of fighting.
Court bailiffs had their Tasers drawn, but managed to quell the disturbance without using them. Judge John R. Stevens ordered that the men not be allowed back into the courtroom.
Delante White testified that he, Beanum and Travon D. Thomas were together at Jay’s Lounge in Greenbrier Shopping Center prior to the slaying.
He said they had just dropped Thomas off in Mayfield when four armed men approached their car.
White said the gunmen ordered him out of the car and took about $400 and a cellphone from him.
White said he heard another gunman telling Beanum, whom he referred to as “J.R.,” to empty his pockets.
White said he was later hit in the head with a pistol and knocked to the ground, where he was kicked by two of the gunmen.
He was still on the ground when he heard Beanum say something after the first shot was fired. A second shot followed and Beanum didn’t make another sound.
White said he got up and ran because he figured that he too would be executed if he stayed on the ground.
City Detective Wayne Hunnicutt testified that Jones and Washington have confessed to their roles in the slaying and have implicated Pegram and Smith.
Commonwealth’s Attorney LaBravia Jenkins put both Jones and Washington on the witness stand Tuesday, but neither testified.
Hunnicutt said Washington told him that he and Jones came from Richmond that day and hung out with Smith, Pegram and others. He said at some point Smith began talking about wanting to do a “lick,” which Hunnicutt said meant robbing somebody.
Washington told police that the group went to the bar and picked out Beanum as a target.
While following Beanum to Mayfield, Washington said Smith talked about “smoking,” or killing, him.
Washington said all four suspects were on board with the robbery, but no one else wanted to kill anyone. But he said Smith ended up shooting Beanum repeatedly anyway.
Smith’s attorney, Joe Morrisey, vigorously cross-examined Hunnicutt and White.
He pointed out a number of inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence, such as White testifying that Pegram hit him with the pistol when Washington’s story was that he hit White.
Morrisey also argued that White’s identification of both Smith and Pegram was “coerced.”
Both White and Thomas were initially charged with obstruction of justice, but those charges were dropped.
Morrisey argued that White wasn’t able to identify anyone until his charge was dropped and even then White said he was only “60 percent” sure.
“This case is riddled with inconsistencies,” Morrisey said while asking Stevens not to certify the charges. “And [White’s] testimony is inherently incredible.”
Asked why White and Thomas were initially charged, Hunnicutt said he never wanted to charge them but was directed to by a supervisor.
Stevens certified the charges, saying he was willing to let it play out in Circuit Court.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404