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Ritchie will serve 20 years in death and injuries inflicted to toddler twins

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Chad Ritchie’s RSW Jail mug shot at time of arrest November 2017 – Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

After four hours of pre-sentencing testimony and arguments on Friday afternoon, Chad Ritchie was ordered to serve 20 years of a 55-year sentence imposed by Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey in the death of one, and beating of a second 22-month-old twin child in November 2017.

Ritchie, 28 at the time of his November 2017 arrest, entered Alford guilty pleas on the second day of his December 2018 trial on four charges stemming from the death of 22-month-old toddler Malachi Zimmerman and for non-fatal injuries inflicted to Malachi’s twin brother Micah on November 8, 2017. Ritchie was watching the children of his then girlfriend Tabitha Zimmerman at Zimmerman’s parents’ home where they shared a residence, while Zimmerman was on night-shift at Rubbermaid where both she and Ritchie worked and had met.

Following his choice to enter Alford guilty pleas to a charge of second degree murder in the death of Malachi; malicious wounding of Micah; and one count of endangerment of each child, Ritchie faced guidelines ranging from 15 years of actual incarceration on the low end to a high end of 20 years in prison, with a mid-range of 17 years. In an Alford plea a defendant admits the prosecution has enough evidence to convict without admitting guilt.


Asked by the judge if he had anything to say prior to sentencing, Ritchie hesitated before quietly saying, “No.”

The defense contended the cause of Malachi’s death was not being struck by Ritchie, but rather by a large and panicking man incorrectly administering CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) when he discovered Malachi unconscious and unresponsive in a bedroom where he left him to prepare a bath for the child after his earlier admitted striking of the children.

During Friday’s sentencing hearing defense attorney Jason Ransom reiterated his trial contention that the 6-foot-plus, 220-pound Ritchie had administered CPR as one would to an adult, with two hands and two arms thrusting fully at the abdomen of the child. 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:

Toddler death defense – ‘a horrific accident’ – prosecution ‘Really?’

However, Layton countered that Ritchie claimed to be and apparently was certified in the administration of CPR – and that someone certified in CPR would not have made such a mistake.

“He was trained … he should have done better but he was freaking out,” Ransom told the court of the adult level of force he contended his client used in trying to revive a 22-month-old child.

A later RSW mug shot from December 2018 illustrates Chad Ritchie’s appearance for trial. Ritchie was wearing jail clothes from another facility (NRADC) during Friday’s hearing. Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

At trial in December and again during the March 22 sentencing hearing the defense attempted to portray Ritchie as a loving father figure to the children who had one terrible lapse of anger management leading to an uncharacteristic outburst of physical violence against the twins.

“That particular day a parent (figure) who because he was overwhelmed … he lost his cool – when someone that size loses it, this is where we are. That child is gone forever and when Mr. Ritchie gets out of prison he will have to live with that,” defense counsel Ransom told the court.

“This has crushed him; this has crushed his spirit … what he did was wrong and he’s got to pay for it – the question is how hard,” Ransom asked. “I don’t think the court needs to teach him not to do this again. We would agree to 20 years if it repeatedly happened. But I think this was a one-time occurrence. This was the worst day in everyone in this family’s life. We ask for 15 to 17 years,” Ransom concluded in seeking a lower to mid-range time of incarceration.

However, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton countered that the court should weigh the impacts on the real victims, Malachi and Micah, their mother and grandparents, rather than how Ritchie might be impacted by a few additional years behind bars.

As to Ransom’s question on how harsh a sentence his client should receive, for maternal grandmother Rosemary Zimmerman, who with husband Daniel is raising the surviving twin pending resolution of related charges against their daughter, the answer was harsh. In the day’s most emotional testimony Rosemary Zimmerman described the impact on the family.

“I was the last one to see him (Malachi) when he was carried up to the ambulance. You could tell he was dead. He was way past the color for normal … it happened in our house … they thought we were involved in this sickness,” she told the court, voice rising, starting to cry.

“The guy admitted he killed the baby and we’re suffering for it. I can’t see my daughter; and the kids (Micah and a half sister) can’t see her because of a court order against her … Malachi was dead before he got CPR,” his grandmother told the court.

Then turning toward Ritchie at the defense table, voice rising, Rosemary Zimmerman yelled, “You killed him!!! Give him the max; I don’t even know what it is at this point.”

Mitigation witnesses for the defense included Ritchie’s parents, siblings and friends who all described the defendant as good around children, including the twins from their experience. They also referenced Facebook photos appearing to indicate a positive relationship between Ritchie and the twins posted prior to the tragedy.

However, prosecutor Layton pointed to evidence, including the defendant’s own verbal and written interviews with authorities in the wake of Malachi’s death and his brother Micah’s treatment for injuries at the hospital the night of November 8, 2017.

“He was so upset the kids weren’t behaving the way he wanted them to that he took cigarette breaks to try and calm down,” Layton told the court. He pointed to the defendant’s description of events indicating that Malachi had lain down and cried for 10 minutes after being struck by Ritchie one of the earlier of three times the defendant admitted to hitting the child. Upset by that continuous crying, Ritchie returned to again strike the child, choking and body slamming him, Layton said, “Then he stopped crying – how hard to you have to hit a child to stop him from crying like that,” Layton asked the court.

“He (Ritchie) tried to minimize it from the outset,” Layton said of the defendant’s portrayal of events. “The defense says he was panicking. But look at the text he sent Tabitha Zimmerman – what does he tell her, ‘Get your ass home – we have a problem.’

“A dead child is not a problem; a dead child is a tragedy. He deserves far more than 20 years,” Layton told the court of the sentencing guidelines.

Noting the defendant’s age, Judge Athey observed that unlike Malachi Zimmerman “Mr. Ritchie will get a second chance” when he is released around age 50.

Following his sentencing of Ritchie, Athey set Monday for a pre-trial hearing on charges the twins’ mother faces related to the case. A three-day trial has been set for April 8-10 for Tabitha Zimmerman, 29, on two counts of cruelty and injuries to children revolving around the prosecution theory that the violence of November 8, 2017, was a culmination of a pattern of abuse by Ritchie that the mother was aware of and allowed to continue.

Her attorney John Bell was a spectator at both Ritchie’s trial of December 10-11 and Friday’s sentencing hearing. Bell agrees with the Ritchie defense team on one aspect of the case, that older bruises found on the twins were a result of the toddler’s active lifestyle, horseplay and rough housing with each other, rather than a long-term pattern of physical abuse by Ritchie, at least any pattern of behavior the children’s mother was aware of.

Tabitha Zimmerman at time of her arrest on charges she failed to act on indications of a pattern of abusive behavior by her boyfriend toward her children. Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

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Missing juvenile located, Arkansas man arrested

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A 14-year-old Frederick County juvenile has been located safely and an Arkansas man is under arrest, at this time, facing various charges to include abduction. Rae-Anna Allen was last seen leaving her home in Winchester on Sunday, January 9th around 11:07am and was later reported missing by her family. Deputy J.A. Tanner and Investigator B.J. Hazelwood worked in tandem to attempt to locate Rae-Anna and began re-tracing her movements through digital forensics and with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies. Electronic footprints had shown a strong possibility that Rae-Anna was mobile in a vehicle and no longer in Frederick County, or the Commonwealth of Virginia, by early Sunday evening.

Law enforcement officials in Virginia and Tennessee began checking for video surveillance along the I-81 corridor, in areas where cellphone towers indicated Rae-Anna’s phone had recently been active. The hope was to spot the juvenile, and any person she may be with, or a vehicle she might be traveling in for a nationwide Amber Alert to be issued. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office had over 3,000 social media post shares of Rae-Anna’s disappearance that reached over 170,000 people including the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children who then shared that information to thousands more.

A possible location for Rae-Anna 1,100 miles from Winchester, in Arkansas, was obtained and is where the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office executed a search of a home overnight. Sheriff’s deputies found Rae-Anna in the company of 22-year-old Christopher Lane Stone of Hope, Arkansas and immediately took the male into custody. In Frederick County, Deputy Tanner obtained a warrant for abduction that was served on Stone by HCSO at 2:48 am. A follow-up investigation is being conducted by the Arkansas authorities and further charges, from that jurisdiction, are pending.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office wishes to acknowledge and thank: The Virginia State police BCI High Tech Division, the Blountville (TN) Sheriff’s Office, the Green County (TN) Sheriff’s Office, the United States Marshalls Service, the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children and the Hempstead County (AR) Sheriff’s Office.


Sheriff Lenny Millholland is proud of the work of his people, and grateful for the support and assistance from the community in getting critical information on Rae-Anna out to so many people so quickly, resulting in locating and bringing this missing juvenile home safely.

Frederick County Sheriff’s Office seeks help in locating missing teen

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New fencing up, Holloway’s ‘Dog Day’ in court ends with dismissal and payment of court costs

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On the 10 a.m. Wednesday morning (Jan. 12) docket in Warren County General District Court, a misdemeanor charge of dogs running at large against Front Royal Mayor Chris Holloway was dismissed with payment of $104 in court costs. Holloway was not in court, but was represented by counsel John O’Neill. Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Lindsay LeHew represented the prosecution and Judge W. Dale Houff presided. The charge carries a maximum $200 fine.

Contacted outside the courtroom, O’Neill explained the resolution as typical of a defendant coming into compliance on this type of charge. He noted that Holloway’s construction of new fencing capable of holding his two large Bull Mastiffs on his Virginia Avenue property had been verified by involved Warren County Sheriff’s Office Deputy C.R. Clatterbuck and that the Commonwealth had been notified of the defendant’s effort to come into compliance in preventing future escapes of his two large canines.

Completed fencing preventing future dog escapes netted Chris Holloway a ‘dogs at large’ dismissal with court costs of $104. Royal Examiner Photo by Roger Bianchini

Holloway’s summons was issued on Nov. 28 in the wake of a complaint by Holloway neighbor Cheryl Langlais after she and her adult son were charged by the dogs along Virginia Avenue, one of which was said to have grabbed ahold of the son’s clothing in an aggressive manner. When multiple previous complaints involving the Holloway’s dogs were noted by law enforcement the summons was issued.


Holloway cited in November dog charge

Mayor built fence prior to obtaining zoning permit – is a pattern emerging?

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Shooting death at Frederick County residence under investigation

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At approximately 11:50 a.m. today (Dec. 30), a shooting was reported in the 100 block of Dick’s Hollow Road in Frederick County which has resulted in the death of one person.

  • The Sheriff’s Office can confirm that a male subject was shot by the homeowner during some type of verbal or physical altercation.
  • There were multiple subjects in the residence at the time with one subject fatally struck by gunfire.
  • Early indications are that there was only a single shot fired.
  • The subject who fired the weapon is in custody.
  • There is no ongoing threat to the community currently.
  • The identity of the victim is not being released pending notification of next of kin.

Details are limited at this time as this incident remains an active crime scene with law enforcement still processing evidence and speaking to witnesses and suspects. A more detailed press release will be forthcoming in the future.

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Holloway cited in November dog charge

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After numerous complaints of his large mastiff dogs running loose in the neighborhood Mayor Chris Holloway has been issued a summons to appear in Warren County Circuit Court on Jan. 12, 2022, at 10 a.m.

According to a November 28 citation issued by Warren County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant C.R. Clatterbuck, Holloway was charged with a single count of dogs running at large, which carries a maximum $200 penalty.

Clatterbuck’s incident report states he arrived in the area of Academy Drive and Virginia Avenue for a dog bite call and “observed two very large brown dogs in the middle of Academy Drive.” He wrote that he “observed a male subject (identified as Holloway) attempting to contain the dogs, but the dogs were not listening.” Once the dogs were contained and Clatterbuck spoke to Holloway, the dog owner “explained that his dogs were nice and did not bite anyone,” the report states.

 

Holloway’s property is from the Virginia Avenue/Academy Drive intersection near where the incident occurred. Royal Examiner File Photo by Roger Bianchini


 

The citizen who made the initial call for assistance, Cheryl Langlais, reached out to Royal Examiner the evening of the incident. She relayed that she and her adult son had been walking in their neighborhood when the dogs approached the pair in a menacing manner. She stated that the dogs had frequently roamed the neighborhood and she felt that the situation was “an accident waiting to happen”.

Langlais said in a telephone interview that the dogs were “growling and barking before grabbing my son’s arm and leg.” It was at that point that Langlais called police, hastily telling the dispatcher that the dog had “bitten my child” before ending the call and attempting to help her son.

Langlais explained that though the dog grabbed her son, its teeth had latched on to loose portions of his clothing and not penetrated to his skin. Clatterbuck’s report confirmed that there was no bite injury and noted that the dogs had “come up to them and nudged them hard.”

Upon speaking to Holloway, Clatterbuck writes in the report that “Mr. Holloway showed me in the rear of his fence, he had green fence post driven into the ground to attempt to contain the dogs due to a short fence issue.” Holloway, according to the incident report, stated that he had been pricing fencing at a local store and planned to install a new fence.

Fence construction is underway on Dec. 5 at the rear of the property off Academy Drive near the R-MA entrance. Below, a sign warning ‘beware of the dog’ as well as ‘no trespassing’ signage was posted on Holloway’s property the morning after the incident. Courtesy Photos

Following that conversation, Clatterbuck wrote that he contacted dispatch and “spoke to other deputies who both advised me we have dealt with the same issue with same dogs multiple times.” He stated that Holloway was issued a summons for dog at large and given information regarding available fencing.

Langlais told Royal Examiner that she had tried to be neighborly regarding Holloway’s dogs and had tried to help “round them up” in the past when they had escaped from the waist-high fence.

“All of this could have been avoided with an act of civility on Holloway’s part, had he simply apologized or inquired if everyone was okay. He is not neighborly, not a good citizen, particularly as a leader.”

Royal Examiner reached out to Holloway for comment, but he did not respond.

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UPDATE: I-81 Rest Area Shooting Suspect Deceased; Investigation Remains Ongoing

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The investigation continues into a shooting that occurred at a Frederick County Rest Area along Interstate 81 Sunday (Dec. 26) morning.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m., a man and woman became engaged in a domestic dispute at the southbound I-81 Rest Area at the 320-mile marker. When the dispute turned physical, several individuals who happened to be at the Rest Area tried to intervene for the woman’s safety. The 34-year-old male, Cesar Juarez Avila, then began firing at the woman and individuals who had intervened. The woman and three males were shot. Avila fled the Rest Area driving a Chevrolet Malibu.

Photos courtesy of Virginia State Police.

The female and two male victims were transported to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. A third male victim was flown to Fairfax Inova Hospital for treatment of serious, but non-life-threatening, injuries.


State police, with the assistance of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, secured the Rest Area and began actively following up on leads concerning Avila’s whereabouts.

Shortly after 12 p.m. Sunday, a Frederick County Sheriff’s Deputy spotted the Chevrolet Malibu traveling on Airport Road in Frederick County. When the sheriff’s deputy and state police pulled in behind the Chevrolet, it sped away and a short pursuit ensued. Law enforcement positioned their vehicles around the suspect vehicle and forced it to a stop. When the Malibu came to a stop, law enforcement witnessed shots being fired inside the Malibu. When troopers approached the vehicle, they located Avila in the driver’s seat suffering from a gunshot wound.

Avila was transported to Winchester Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries. Avila’s body was transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for autopsy and examination.

No law enforcement discharged their weapons during the course of the incident. A handgun was recovered from inside the Malibu.

The incident remains under investigation by the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Culpeper Field Office.

The I-81 southbound Rest Area was reopened to the public at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday.

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Virginia State Police investigating deputy-involved shooting in Rappahannock County

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At the request of Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton, Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins, and Madison County Sheriff Erik Weaver, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Culpeper Field Office is investigating a pursuit and shooting that involved their personnel.

At 5:30 p.m. Friday (Dec. 17, 2021), the Town of Culpeper Police Department issued a “Be On the Lookout” to regional law enforcement for Jeremy A. Yates, 21, of Culpeper, Va. An Emergency Custody Order (ECO) had been obtained for him and it was believed that he may be armed with a gun.

At approximately 9 p.m., a Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy observed a 2018 Chevrolet Colorado stopped in the roadway on Rt. 231 (Etlan Rd) in Madison County. As deputies from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office approached the Chevrolet, Yates sped away and a pursuit ensued. During the course of the pursuit, Yates began firing shots at passing vehicles. When the pursuit continued north on Rt. 231 into Rappahannock County, a Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Deputy became involved in the pursuit. It was during this time that Yates fired and struck a Rappahannock County Deputy’s vehicle multiple times.

As Yates was driving south on Rt. 707 (Slate Mills Rd) near the intersection of Rt. 644 (Reva Rd) – which is inside the Rappahannock County but right at the Culpeper County line – he began shooting at Culpeper County Sheriff’s Deputies who were stopped in the roadway and facing north on Slate Mills Road. The Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office personnel returned fire. The Chevrolet Colorado then ran off the left side of the road, collided with an embankment, and overturned.


Deputies attempted to render first aid, but Yates died at the scene. His remains were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination and autopsy.

Two handguns were recovered from the Chevrolet Colorado.

No deputies or other persons were injured during the incident. No citizens have reported their vehicles being struck by bullets from when Yates was firing at other vehicles.

The investigation remains ongoing at this time.

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 540-829-7400 or questions@vsp.virginia.gov.

 

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