MANASSAS, Va. - A former Army staff sergeant charged with killing his wife and a Prince William County police officer has been found guilty on all charges at his capital murder trial.
The verdict now means that 34-year-old Ronald Hamilton could face the death penalty.
Authorities say on Feb. 27, 2016, Hamilton fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and 28-year-old Ashley Guindon, a Prince William County police officer who responded to the scene after Hamilton’s wife called 911 for a domestic dispute. It was Guindon's first day on the job.
Two other officers, Jesse Hempen and David McKeown, were wounded, but survived.
Prior to the start of the trial, Hamilton’s lawyers said their client was willing to plead guilty to the killings if capital murder was taken off the table. The Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office decided to move forward with three capital murder charges and 14 other counts related to the incident.
During two weeks of testimony, jurors heard evidence that Crystal Hamilton called 911 after her husband struck her and slammed her to the floor. Jurors heard the 911 call which ended with Crystal Hamilton pleading, "Stop!" Prosecutors say Ronald Hamilton shot his wife four times with a Glock handgun.
Several officers responded to the 911 call. The officers tried to enter the house to check on Crystal Hamilton's welfare, but Ronald Hamilton refused to let them in. One of the officers then kicked open the front door, only to find Hamilton crouched with an AK-47 rifle opening fire. All three officers who initially responded to the home were struck, including Guindon, who had just been sworn in as an officer. Hempen and McKeown, who testified at the trial, survived but suffered serious injuries.
Gene Hart, one of Hamilton's public defenders, acknowledged to the jury during Tuesday's closing arguments that Hamilton is guilty of the slayings. But he argued that the killings lacked the premeditation necessary for a capital-murder conviction and possible death penalty. Instead, he urged the jury to convict on lesser charges of either second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, saying Hamilton was acting in the heat of passion.
Before Hamilton's trial began, Judge Steven S. Smith ruled in a pre-trial hearing that the jury could not hear expert opinion on the victim’s cause of death. The ruling came after the prosecution missed a 60-day deadline to provide witness information to the defense. Smith’s ruling meant a medical examiner could not give the jury the cause of death. DNA evidence, which relies on interpretation by forensic scientists, was also inadmissible in the case.
Information from the Associated Press used in this report.
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