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Beach man spared death penalty

Beach jury acquits man of first-degree murder

Man who videotaped up teen's skirt pleads guilty to misdemeanor

Beach Man Spared Death Penalty

By Shawn Day
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 21, 2009

Carl Lee Walton was ordered Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison for shooting two women point-blank in the head nearly four years ago.

Walton, convicted Friday of capital murder, first-degree murder and related firearm charges, winked to relatives and waved as he was led from the courtroom after Circuit Judge Stephen C. Mahan imposed the sentence.

He was ordered to serve life without parole on the capital murder charge, two life sentences for first-degree murder and eight years for the firearm charges in the Dec. 21, 2005, shooting of Ronique Ewing and Tonya Smith in Burton Station.

Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant had argued for Walton's execution. He praised the victims' relatives for persevering through the past four years, enduring Walton's 2007 mistrial, and sitting through argument and testimony this week and last.

Smith's mother and stepfather left as the judge explained his decision. Some of Ewing's relatives shook their heads.

"We have to live with it," said Ewing's sister Dena McBeth. "I just feel like he is a future danger. There's no reason for him to be good."

In announcing his decision, the judge noted Walton, 37, was a threat to society. He called death an "appropriate" sentence but said life in prison without parole was "adequate."

Defense attorneys Timothy Quick and John Hooker Jr. convinced him that alcohol and drug use affected the defendant's ability to reason, "and that he acted while severely mentally or emotionally disturbed," Mahan said.

Walton was enraged because he believed the women had stolen $600.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, Quick told the judge that no good would come of executing Walton. He asked him to consider Walton's childhood – born to a 17-year-old alcoholic mother and an absentee father, then bouncing from relative to relative – as he weighed the punishment.

He also mentioned Walton's two teen age children and suggested Walton could find redemption while spending the rest of his life locked away.

"This man will die in prison behind many layers of concrete, many layers of barbed wire, without access to drugs, alcohol or firearms," Quick said.

Prosecutors insisted the judge send Walton to his death. Bryant, the commonwealth's attorney, noted that Smith, 27, and Ewing, 28, received no mercy, and their young children received no consideration.

Ewing's sisters testified that they treated Walton, whom they had known for years, like a brother. They said her son, now 8, points skyward to honor his mother every time he scores a touchdown in youth football. He often cries at night, and sometimes draws pictures of guns, which he says he would use to kill Walton.

Smith's mother testified that she has become guardian of her daughter's young son. The boy doesn't remember his mother, she said.

Bryant pointed to Walton's criminal record, which he said indicated a progression of crimes culminating with the shooting of Smith and Ewing.

Records show Walton was convicted of discharging a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and, in 1996, voluntary manslaughter. Walton later told his probation officer that he shot that victim because 'he wouldn't stop banging on my door,' " Bryant said.

He added that Walton had beaten another inmate at the city jail so badly the victim needed stitches, and Walton had not apologized or shown remorse for the 2005 shootings.

A few hours later, as he stood before the judge and awaited his sentence, Walton turned to his victims' relatives and said he was "deeply sorry for what I've done."

Article taken from the Virginian-Pilot

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Beach jury acquits man of first-degree murder



VIRGINIA BEACH – A 35-year-old Northern Virginia man was acquitted by a jury Monday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man at the Ramada Inn Airport Hotel last year.

Rene Go Bernaldo of Sterling was charged with murder for the slaying of James A. Foote, 33, on Sept. 8, 2003 .

Bernaldo's attorney, Timothy J. Quick, said his client never denied shooting Foote outside a hotel room, but Bernaldo claimed it was self-defense. The jury agreed.

Both men were involved in the drug business, according to testimony during the trial, which began last week.

Bernaldo worked as a driver and mechanic for a Maryland man visiting Virginia Beach and meeting with Foote. They were staying at the Ramada on Northampton Boulevard.

When a dispute broke out at the hotel room between Bernaldo and Foote, Bernaldo tried to avoid violence, according to Quick, but he was approached by an armed Foote and fired his weapon in self-defense.

Bernaldo ran from the scene, threw his gun into a lake and left Virginia Beach for Maryland. Eventually he returned to Northern Virginia, where he was arrested after an extensive police investigation.

Man acquitted in 2003 fatal shooting


VIRGINIA BEACH — A 20-year-old Newport News man was acquitted Thursday of murder charges in the death of a teenager last August. A jury also found Michael Cleary not guilty of attempted robbery and a weapons violation. Jurors deliberated about an hour before rejecting the prosecution's claim that Cleary had played a key role in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Marcus E. Bishop on July 20, 2003.

The shooting occurred in the Campus East section of the city.

Bishop, who was shot three times, appeared to be recovering from his wounds before taking a sudden downturn while hospitalized at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. After a second surgery, Bishop died on Aug. 6, 2003.

Cleary and two other men were initially charged in Bishop's death.

Jimmie L. Lamb III is scheduled to go to trial next week on the same three charges of which Cleary was acquitted on Thursday.

Charges were withdrawn against Jermaine L. Woodson, the man police believe fired the shots. Woodson refused to talk to police, and Cleary and Lamb refused to testify against him.

All three men are from the Peninsula and came to the Beach on July 20, 2003, in a car driven by Lamb.

According to testimony during a three-day trial, the men picked up Bishop and drove around his neighborhood near the campus of Virginia Wesleyan College.

Bishop, who allegedly owed Woodson money, was shot during the ride, escaped from the car and ran to the home of his parents, who called 911.

The tape of that emergency call "was key to the case," said Cleary's attorney, Timothy J. Quick.

Bishop's mother testified during the trial that her son had told her before the 911 call that Cleary had tried to rob him while Woodson held the gun and Lamb drove the car.

But when the tape was played for the jury, Quick noted, she was heard asking her husband to ask their son how he had been shot.

Cleary did not testify during the trial. He told police during a three-hour videotaped interview that he was in the back seat of the car with Bishop when the shooting occurred.

He said Woodson pulled the gun and shot Bishop during a struggle.

Lamb's statement about the shooting to police is expected to be introduced during his trial next week.

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Man who videotaped up teen's skirt pleads guilty to misdemeanor


NORFOLK — A man who concealed a video camera in a shopping bag and used it to film underneath a girl's skirt at MacArthur Center pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Wednesday.

A judge sentenced Jeffrey C. Swisher, 34, of Virginia Beach, to a year in jail for the crime, but suspended all but 10 days of the sentence. Swisher was allowed to delay reporting to the jail until Friday so he can face a similar charge in Chesapeake on Thursday.

Swisher had originally been charged with illegal taping in the Norfolk case. But state statutes do not specifically prohibit filming someone under their clothes in a public place. Prosecutor Lauren Byrne withdrew the illegal taping charge after Swisher's plea. She said both misdemeanors carry similar penalties.

During the hearing, the victim's mother, Rosalie "Bunny" Brunt, told General District Judge Bruce Wilcox that she first noticed the man as she and her 18-year-old daughter were shopping at Aldo in MacArthur Center on May 21.

"I gave him a look," Brunt said. She and her daughter went to another store, where she saw the man again. Brunt said she turned to see the man waving a bag back and forth behind her daughter. When she asked what he had in the bag, the man ran.

Brunt screamed for help and chased the man through the mall. A passerby tackled the man in Nordstrom.

A police detective showed Wilcox a black plastic bag confiscated from Swisher. It had been rigged to hold a video camera with its lens pointed up. The tape contained images of Brunt's daughter and several other women. Swisher is visible on the tape, the detective said.

Byrne played the tape for the judge, after requesting the television screen be turned so people in the courtroom benches could not see it. Swisher stood next to the television and could view the screen. Brunt asked the judge to prevent Swisher from watching, but Wilcox said Swisher had a right to see evidence against him. Brunt's daughter left the courtroom, crying. She returned a short time later, and linked her arm with her mother's.

Swisher told Wilcox he did not post any of the video on the Internet. Police seized his computer, but eventually returned it to him.

Wilcox ruled that the camera could also be returned to Swisher, but the tape and the camera's memory card should be destroyed.

Swisher's attorney, Timothy J. Quick, said his client had been expelled from Virginia Wesleyan College because of the charge. Swisher said he has been in counseling for five weeks.

Byrne told Wilcox he should send a message to others who might try similar crimes.

"He had the gall to stand as close to her as he did and try to film up her daughter's skirt," Byrne said. "It's intrusive, it's perverted and it's criminal."

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