Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hurley, VA: Buchanan County, VA man convicted of 2nd degree murder

A Buchanan County, Virginia jury sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for the killing of his fiancé’s brother.

Michael Harold Justus, 46, of Hurley, Va., was convicted last week of second-degree murder during a three-day trial. He was accused of shooting 37-year-old Donnie Wayne Harris in the head April 2, 2011, according to a written statement from the Buchanan County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Sometime the night before Harris’ death, he, his sister, Wendy, and her fiancé, Justus, started drinking, according to trial testimony, the statement said.

The three lived together, but after midnight, Wendy Harris called a friend to come get her because Justus was agitated, the statement said. She went into the yard to wait for her ride and her brother came to check on her, the statement said.

Then, Justus came outside and threatened Wendy Harris, raising his fist as though to hit her. Donnie Harris intervened, and he and Justus fought their way back into the house. There, Harris pinned Justus to the ground and started punching him, the statement said. Wendy Harris broke up the fight and called 911 about Justus’ violent threats.

According to evidence shown at the trial, Justus went into his room sometime after the fight ended, got his 9mm pistol, and pointed it at Donnie Harris’ forehead.

A single shot dropped Harris to the ground. Autopsy results showed Harris died of a single gunshot wound to the head, fired from a 9mm pistol believed to be between two and 18 inches away, the statement said.

“Mr. Justus claimed that he had acted on self-defense, but the evidence clearly and convincingly showed otherwise,” said Gerald Arrington, the county’s Commonwealth’s Attorney. “We hope this result will bring peace and closure to the Harris family.”

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