Murderer sentenced to 70 years
Quashawn Jamal Lester, 24, was sentenced on Friday to a total of 178 years for his role as trigger man in the January 24, 2016 murder of Terrance Terrell Coleman in the Boydton area. The court suspended all but an active sentence of 70 years in the case. As the Commonwealth of Virginia does not have parole, he will remain in prison until the age of 94.
Lester, along with Jaquan Hickman and Jeanne Daniels were charged in the crime. Hickman entered a guilty plea to his role in the crime earlier this year and is awaiting final sentencing in May.
Jeanne Daniels is scheduled for trial in March.
Although Lester had been scheduled for a jury trial in August of last year, on the second day of testimony he entered an Alford Plea in the case. An Alford Plea is not an admission of guilt but agrees that prosecution in a case has enough evidence to secure a conviction. The final pre-sentence report was handed down before Judge Leslie Osborn on Friday.
Prior to final sentencing, defense attorney Vaughan Jones called Dr. Sharon Kelly, an expert witness in the field of forensic psychology. Testifying before the court, Dr Kelly talked about his family history and the absence of a parental figure, which may lead to psychological problems. In addition, Dr. Kelly said that Lester had a history of anger management, substance and alcohol abuse. Dr. Jones also said that she felt Lester could benefit from anger management, alcohol and substance treatment and a structured environment.
On questioning from Jones, she testified that a lengthy period of incarceration would make it unlikely that he would repeat his crimes.
On cross examination by Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash, the recording made some 6 weeks after the shooting while Lester was in custody talking with a jailhouse informant was played. In the recording, Lester is heard laughing while discussing the shooting in graphic detail and admitted to being the trigger-man.
Nash asked Dr. Kelly to define a psychopath.
Jones asked if Dr. Kelly had diagnosed the defendant as a psychopath. She replied that she had not.
In his closing arguments, Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash said that on the morning of the murder, a cold and snowy day in Southside, Coleman had been at home doing was many people were doing that day, sitting on his bed in his own home, enjoying the morning with the family pet, a German Shepard.
“We can only assume he was shocked and taken aback when 2 men with shotguns broke in the side door,” said Nash. “One of them shot the dog in front of his very eyes. You heard him mimic the sound the dog made. One of the men- Lester- runs to the foot of the bed and holds him at gunpoint. The other one goes through and the house is ransacked. As Coleman sits there unable to move, he was ordered to turn over whatever he had. They were there for money but couldn’t find any. He told him they were going to “put his brains on the wall.”
Nash described how the dog raised his head and was shot again, this time killing the animal.
“They turned and Coleman saw the muzzle flash. His life ended.”
Coleman was disfigured by the blast and was identified by tattoos on his arm.
Nash told the court that the two could have fled without killing Coleman.
Nash also outlined how the robbers had taken an 11-week-old pit bull terrier puppy from the scene, only to kill the dog several days later.
Describing the recording made of his conversation with the jailhouse informant, Nash pointed out that Lester had “bragged with pride what he had done to this man,” and that he admitted to have using a 12-gauge shotgun to kill Coleman.
Nash told the Judge that as the jurors listed to the jailhouse recording, Lester had been “looking daggers” at the informant. “He couldn’t believe anyone stood up to him. He’s incredibly selfish. He did what he did and bragged about. He’s about as self centered as you can get. He hasn’t shown a shred of remorse. Not one,” said Nash. Nash added that after hearing the evidence against him, Lester had “decided it wasn’t worth the risk,” and entered an Alford Plea.
“It was mean,” said Nash. “He didn’t have to do it. His attitude after the fact shows his feelings. He’s cold,” said Nash. “The snow on the ground that day was about as cold as his heart. Vile. He’s vile. He should be punished in a way I think justice absolutely demands,” said Nash. “I know this is not what the guidelines call for and this is the first time I’ve asked your honor to do this and I think it’s justified. I really do.” Nash then asked for a sentence of life in prison for the murder charge and additional time on the remaining charges.
Defense attorney Jones turned to face the family and said that they had been through a traumatic and horrific experience and that he expected a horrific sentence for his client. He added, however, that he had be struck by a “glaring omission” by the Commonwealth, the testimony of Dr. Kelly who talked about Lester’s youth and the hardships he had experienced.
Jones added that Lester had previously had little criminal history and no major problems with the law. He went on to say that the statistics show that Lester would be at low risk of being an offender after a long incarceration.
Jones pointed out that currently Lester is 24 years old and under the minimum sentencing guidelines would be 54 on his release. At the maximum end of the scale, he said, Lester would be in his 70’s. Even at that age, said Jones, Lester could still be a productive member of society.
Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash told the court that the sheer brutality of this crime made a harsh sentence necessary.
“Why is Lester worth the risk if he’s shown he’s capable of this level of depravity?” asked Nash. He added that a jury could have sentenced Lester to three life terms plus 48 years. Nash repeated his request for a sentence of life plus five years.
Given a chance to speak before sentencing, Lester told the family that he was sorry. A murmur went through the family and friends of the victim.
“I don’t want to hear that,” someone said prompting Judge Osborn to request that the room remain quiet. Lester continued, apologizing to his family and his children.
“I’m remorseful and am really sorry,” he said. “There’s nothing more I can really say,” he concluded.
Judge Osborn told Lester that he was fully familiar with the case.
“The question,” he said, “is what is an appropriate sentence?” A life sentence, he said, was not unreasonable.
“This was a murder in the commission of a robbery,” said Judge Osborn. “It could have been a capital case.”
Turning to the family of the victim, Judge Osborn said “If I could give him three life sentences and bring your son back, I would.”
Addressing the testimony concerning Lester’s childhood, Judge Osborn admitted that Lester had been smart and a good student. He pointed out that during a stint in the military, Lester had become an Army Ranger.
“If you could handle that you overcame your childhood,” said Judge Osborn. “You got out and I don’t know what happened.”
The judge also admitted that Lester had “no criminal history to amount to anything.”
Judge Osborn told Lester that even with the positives, he had bragged and laughed about the murder and it’s brutality.
“You bragged and laughed about blowing this man’s head off,” said Judge Osborn.
Judge Osborn then sentenced Lester to a total of 178 years on the various charges with all but 70 years suspended.
Speaking after sentencing, Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash said that he was basically satisfied with the sentence.
“I think the sentence where it is outlines basically the rest of his natural life. If you inflict this amount of evil, you will pay with the remainder of your life. That is the message that needs to be reinforced and I think this does that,” said Nash. “I’m happy that the family can inch forward in their journey to putting this behind them and this bring them some degree of closure.”
Lester will be eligible for release in 2087 at the age of 94.