In a surprise development Tuesday morning (Dec. 11), 29-year-old Chad Andrew Ritchie entered Alford guilty pleas on all four charges against him stemming from the November 8, 2017 death of 22-month-old toddler Malachi Zimmerman and injuries to his twin brother. An Alford plea is entered when a defendant accepts that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict, but does not admit guilt.
Under the terms of the agreement an “active” prison sentence – time actually served – is capped at 20 years. In accepting the plea at 11:32 a.m. Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford “Clay” Athey noted the agreed-upon sentencing cap was above the recommended midrange sentencing on the charges, which include Second Degree Murder.
During court discussion about the suggested agreement, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton noted recommended sentencing ranges of 14-years, 9 months on the low end to 24 years, 7 months at the high end, with 19 years, 8 months at the mid-range recommendation.
Questioned by the judge on his understanding of the plea agreement, Ritchie repeatedly answered, “Yes sir,” hesitating only once at the question that he agreed the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him. After a brief discussion with his counsel Ritchie finally again replied, “Yes sir.”
The involved twin toddlers were the children of Ritchie’s then girlfriend Tabitha Zimmerman, with whom he lived on Blue Mountain Road in eastern Warren County. The children were in the care of Ritchie the day of Malachi’s death last November.
The case file and testimony on day one of the trial, which began Monday afternoon shortly after 4 p.m., indicated that Zimmerman called the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 6:36 p.m. Wednesday, November 8, 2017 to report that her 22-month old son was not breathing. Zimmerman was not at the house, according to the case file, but had been told by Ritchie that one of her sons was not breathing.
After being treated by Warren County Fire and Rescue at the scene and in transport to Warren Memorial Hospital, Malachi Zimmerman was pronounced dead at the hospital. Cause of death was determined to be cardiac arrest brought on by internal bleeding from a ruptured intestine that flooded the child’s stomach cavity. See Related Story
It appeared from discussion between attorneys and the judge Tuesday morning that the sentencing recommendation on the three lesser felony charges – malicious wounding and two counts of cruelty causing injury to children – would be five years each, with the judge likely determining a lengthier sentence on the Second Degree Murder guilty plea.
The judge noted that the agreement does not limit the actual sentence he can impose or any probationary period, only the actual time to be served in prison.
The judge ordered a pre-sentence report prepared and scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 22, 2019, on the 9 a.m. docket. Witnesses in the courthouse for the trial were brought into the courtroom and the prosecution and defense both called out a list of those witnesses they anticipated calling during the sentencing hearing. It appeared that five Ritchie family members were on that defense list.
When 90-days was suggested to allow the probation office to prepare the pre-sentence report, defense counsel Jason Ransom asked the court if that timeframe could be expedited down to 60 days.
Ransom noted that his client has been incarcerated at RSW Regional Jail in a solitary confinement cell for 23 hours a day since his November 9, 2017 arrest – “It’s maddening,” Ransom said of his client’s jail confinement, likely imposed for his own protection.
While Athey said he would try to accommodate the defense request, he noted that the probation office was under a pretty heavy caseload right now. A probation office official present told the court the office was currently working on six other pre-sentence reports.
As discussion of court schedules and sentencing hearing witness availability took potential return dates, first into April and then May, it was agreed to return to the first Ritchie sentencing hearing date suggested – March 22.
The twins’ mother Tabitha Zimmerman, 29, has been charged on two counts of cruelty and injuries to children revolving around what prosecutors contend was a willful neglect of signs of a pattern of abuse by her former boyfriend. The Ritchie defense said in its opening statement that older marks on the children were the result of being active toddlers prone to falling and rough play with each other, not a sign of any pattern of abuse.
That is a contention Zimmerman’s attorney John Bell, who was an observer on both days of the Ritchie trial, is likely to argue as well. Following Tuesday’s developments Bell said Tuesday’s plea in the Ritchie case did not really impact his client’s defense – that the physical violence – described as disciplinary “smacking” by the defense on day one of the trial – Ritchie admitted to on November 8, 2017, was an aberration, rather than a pattern of behavior.
Zimmerman’s trial is scheduled for April 8-9-10 in the same Warren County Circuit Courtroom.
Two Dinwiddie, VA men arrested; firearms, felony assault, outstanding warrants & more
On Sunday, June 28th at approximately 02:21 AM, Deputy C. Clatterbuck, and Deputy R. Burleson conducted a traffic stop on Fort Valley Road in the area of the Shenandoah County line. During the stop, it was found that the driver of the vehicle was wanted out of another jurisdiction.
Another vehicle arrived at the scene that was traveling with the vehicle on the traffic stop. While Clatterbuck was interacting with the second vehicle, Clatterbuck heard a series of gunshots in the woods near him. After a few minutes, Clatterbuck heard a second round of gunshots in the woods closer to him. After investigation, it was found that the gunshots came from a male occupant of the second vehicle.
The male occupant, identified as Dakota M. Davis, 20, of Dinwiddie, VA, was taken into custody a short time later without incident. Davis was charged with 4.1-305 Underage Possession of Alcohol, 18.2-460 Obstruction of Justice, 18.2-56.1 Reckless Handling of a Firearm, 18.2-57 Felony Assault of LEO X2, and 18.2-388 Public Intoxication.
The male driver, identified as Michael C. Scites, 38, of Dinwiddie, VA, was taken into custody without incident. Scites was charged with 46.2-301 Driving Suspended/Revoked 3rd or subsequent offense, 18.2-250.1 possession of marijuana, and served with his outstanding warrants out of Henrico County.
Both Davis and Scites were held without bond and are currently at RSW Regional Jail. Warren County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Front Royal Police Department, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office we would like to thank these agencies for their assistance.
Virginia Beach man arrested on charge of transmitting in interstate commerce a threat to injure or kill U.S. Senator
A Virginia man, who allegedly transmitted a threat via interstate commerce to kill a United States Senator, was arrested yesterday in Virginia Beach on a federal criminal complaint. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund made the announcement today following the defendant’s initial court appearance this afternoon.
Dylan Stephen Jayne, 37, of Virginia Beach, Va., was arrested yesterday on a federal criminal complaint and charged with one count of transmitting a threat via interstate commerce by leaving a voicemail message and threatening to kill a United States Senator.
According to court documents, on the morning of September 2, 2019, Jayne called the Abingdon office of United States Senator Mark Warner and threatened to kill the Senator regarding Jayne’s perceived lack of receiving Social Security payments.
The investigation of this matter is being conducted by the United States Capitol Police, and the Burlington, Vermont Police Department. The Virginia Beach Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the apprehension of the suspect. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer R. Bockhorst is prosecuting the case for the United States.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Two Frederick County residents charged in Bealton murder investigation
On Sunday, June 21, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office announced two additional arrests in the suspicious death investigation of a woman found deceased in Bealton on June 18. As previously reported, on Saturday, June 20, Melody Dawn Glascock, 54, was arrested by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office on charges of 1st Degree Murder and Obstruction of Justice, concealing evidence of a felony. Glascock was initially being held without bond in Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren (RSW) Regional Jail.
Now lead investigative agency Fauquier County has announced that two Stephens City residents have been arrested by Frederick County authorities on charges related to the Bealton murder investigation.
James Samuel Embrey III, 20, and Maria Dawn Embrey, 40, have been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder and are being held in the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.
The Fauquier Sheriff’s release states that “It is alleged that Melody Dawn Glascock conspired with both James Embrey and Maria Embrey to commit the murder of Kelly Marie Gray,” the release states.
Previously the deceased Bealton individual had only been identified as a 40-year-old woman with severe trauma to her abdomen area. The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office report on the response to Gray’s residence states, “On Thursday, June 18, 2020, deputies responded to Gray’s apartment where she was found by a family member suffering from severe trauma to the torso. The homicide investigation quickly revealed suspects.”
It was also announced that Glascock was transferred over the weekend to the Fauquier County Adult Detention Center in Warrenton, where she remains incarcerated without bond. She now faces a third charge, conspiracy to commit murder.
UPDATE: Fauquier Sheriff ties Warren murder arrest to Bealton investigation
According to the RSW Jail website, a woman, Melody Dawn Glascock, 54, was booked into the facility at 8:34 a.m. Saturday morning, June 20, on a charge of 1st Degree Murder, non-capital, and Obstruction of Justice – the destruction of evidence of a felony. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office was listed as the arresting agency.
More on this story as information becomes available.
The Fauquier Sheriff’s Office has issued a press release tying the arrest of Melody D. Glascock in Warren County to their investigation of a suspicious death in Bealton on June 18. The release also notes that Glascock is a resident of Marshall, but did not add any detail to the circumstance of her arrest in Warren County.
Below is the Saturday morning, June 20 Fauquier release, followed by their June 19 release on the Bealton investigation:
FCSO NEWS RELEASE UPDATE
June 20, 2020 11:30 a.m.
UPDATE: An arrest has been made in the Thursday night homicide in Bealeton. MELODY DAWN GLASCOCK, 54, of Marshall, has been charged by Fauquier County detectives with 1st-degree murder and obstruction of justice. Glascock was apprehended this morning in Warren County and is currently held with no bond in the RSW Regional Jail. More information will be forthcoming.
FCSO NEWS RELEASE
June 19, 2020
BEALETON HOMICIDE UNDER INVESTIGATION
Deputies responded to a suspicious death at approximately 7 p.m. on Thursday night, June 18, 2020. Upon arriving in the 6300 block of Village Center Drive deputies located a deceased female in an apartment. The 40-year-old victim was apparently found when a family member returned home.
The victim suffered severe trauma to the torso. An autopsy will be conducted at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas, VA, on Friday, June 19, 2020, to determine the exact cause and manner of death. This incident is currently under investigation as a homicide.
Further information will be provided as it becomes available. Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to contact the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office at 540-347-3300.
Rappawan, Campbell Realty civil hearing date set; April Petty, Jesse Poe pre-trial hearing request under consideration by court
Although neither she nor her attorney was present live or virtually for scheduled Economic Development Authority civil case hearings Thursday morning, June 18, Jennifer McDonald’s presence was apparent throughout defense motion’s hearing arguments in the cases of defendants April Petty and Jesse Poe.
Prior to those arguments a hearing date of July 30, beginning at 8:30 a.m. was set for pre-trial motions in the cases of Rappawan Inc., and principal William Vaught Jr. and Century 21, Campbell Realty Inc., and principals Walter and Jeannette Campbell. Attorneys for those defendants were among the few physically present in the older, larger Warren County Circuit Courtroom with Judge Bruce D. Albertson Thursday morning.
The Campbells were represented by Warrenton attorney Peter Hansen; Rappawan and Vaught by local real estate attorney Joseph Silek Jr., though it appeared Hansen might also have a hand in the Rappawan case. However, he said he would defer to Silek on the availability of the July 30 date for that client.
It was noted that coming motions reply dates were July 10 for a plaintiff response to defense motions, and July 24 for a defense reply to the plaintiff’s assertions in their reply.
‘They didn’t know’
In arguing for a pre-trial plea in bar hearing for his clients, April Petty and Jesse Poe – the latter not to be confused with fellow civil defendant Donald Poe – attorney William Shmidheiser III repeatedly told the court he was not disputing lead civil defendant Jennifer McDonald’s embezzlement of the amounts of money cited in real estate home purchases McDonald achieved for his clients, rather he was asserting his clients had no knowledge that that money (totaling $410,000) had been embezzled.
So, Shmidheiser told Judge Albertson his clients should have the right to present their cases to him at a plea and bar hearing prior to the primary civil trial alleging a conspiracy among all 15 defendants to benefit from McDonald crimes, admitted or alleged, in an amount totaling over $21 million dollars.
The amount of embezzled money he cited involving his clients was $125,000 in Petty’s transaction and $285,000 in Jesse Poe’s. Their attorney said his clients recruited McDonald to be their real estate agent for home purchases from knowing her through family connections. Poe dated a niece of McDonald’s at the time, his attorney said; and Petty knew McDonald as the successful “golden child” of relatives she knew socially.
Shmidheiser said that if his clients could be proven to not have been involved in the larger conspiracy alleged by the plaintiff in a pre-trial plea and bar hearing, it would serve the “judicial economy” in simplifying and speeding up the primary case.
Arguing for the plaintiff EDA after being introduced to the court over phone connection by lead Sands Anderson/EDA attorney Cullen Seltzer, was Sean Hudson. Hudson countered the defense “judicial economy” argument, noting that Schmidheiser’s clients weren’t denying that embezzled funds had been used in their real estate transaction, only that they weren’t aware it was embezzled at the time of their home purchases with former EDA Executive Director McDonald acting as their real estate agent.
EDA attorney Hudson also noted that neither Petty nor Poe had offered to return the embezzled money utilized in their home purchases; adding his firm had not yet been able to depose either defendant, a conversation between plaintiff and defendants that could lead to a pre-trial settlement offer.
Defense counsel Shmidheiser countered that once involved, he had offered multiple dates for depositions of his clients but that an impasse with Sands Anderson over a location for those depositions – the law firm’s Richmond home base or Warren County where the case will be heard – had occurred.
Their attorney also noted that neither April Petty nor Jesse Poe had been indicted by the EDA Criminal Case Special Grand Jury after testifying before it, in Petty’s case at least, multiple times. That indicated the grand jury believed his clients’ stories, Schmidheiser asserted to the court.
“She would like some closure. She has a lot at stake,” her attorney said, pointing to her federal emergency management job.
As the arguments concluded, Judge Albertson returned to the oft-touched topic of “fairness” and asked plaintiff counsel if he thought it “fair” that the court is allowed to at least “consider a pre-trial resolution for two or more defendants”.
After a long pause, Hansen offered that he thought keeping the defendants in the primary civil action would achieve the best chance of a pre-trial settlement, ultimately serving to streamline the case to the desired “judicial economy”.
Judge Albertson then took the arguments under advisement.
Update: State Police add detail on Saturday night high-speed pursuit
In a press release issued Wednesday, June 17, shortly before 3 p.m. the Culpeper Office of the Virginia State Police added detail to the circumstance of the high speed chase through three counties the previous Saturday evening. As reported in Royal Examiner, that chase and apprehension led to multiple charges, criminal and traffic, against 33-year-old Bryan Douglas Walters of Luray.
Walters is currently being held without bond in the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail.
The full text of the VSP release, which varies slightly on information gathered from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office on Front Royal Police involvement, is presented below:
“A Luray, Va. man is behind bars on multiple charges in two counties after he fled law enforcement Saturday (June 13, 2020). Virginia State Police have charged Bryan D. Walters, 33, in Warren County with two felony counts of assault on law enforcement, one felony count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice. In Frederick County, state police have charged Walters with one felony count of eluding law enforcement, and one count of driving while revoked.
“The pursuit Saturday was initiated by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. As it continued north on Route 11 entering Frederick County at approximately 8:29 p.m., state police took over the pursuit and continued behind the fleeing 2012 Jeep Patriot, until it finally crashed into the median on I-66 at the 2.8-mile marker in Warren County. The driver, Walters, was taken into custody without further incident. Walters was transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond.
“During the course of the pursuit Walters struck two state police cruisers. One of the state police troopers suffered minor injuries in that crash.
“The pursuit reached speeds of up to 100 mph.
“Please contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for details on why/how the pursuit was initiated and their charges.”