Family of five-year-old Henrico girl shot in head testifies during suspect’s trial

Trial continues for man accused in shooting of five-year-old girl

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Jurors in the trial of a Henrico man, charged with the aggravated malicious wounding of a five-year-old girl, heard testimony Wednesday about some of her recovery process after being shot in the head.

Derick Lamond Walton Jr. faces multiple charges in connection to the April 2019 shooting of Ke’Miyah Edwards and an adult man.

On April 4, 2019 Henrico police responded to the Oak Hill Shopping Center off Mechanicsville Turnpike after a reported shooting in a nearby neighborhood

5-year-old Ke’miyah Edwards was shot in April.
5-year-old Ke’miyah Edwards was shot in April. (Source: YW+PSofUNGvWaur5pCix5wkRXgtM+bbe)

Ke’Miyah spent weeks in the hospital recovering after being shot in the head. Multiple fundraisers were held to help the family during the challenging time.

On Wednesday, opening statements and testimony were heard after Tuesday’s full day of jury selection.

Henrico’s Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sean Breit-Rupe gave opening statements on behalf of the state.

He opened saying this is a case of a “single moment that changed the life of five-year-old Ke’Miyah Edwards.”

Breit-Rupe informed the jury Ke’Miyah was at her family’s house when gunfire erupted outside and a bullet tore through the living room wall into her forehead.

The Commonwealth advised the jury to pay attention to “one thing” – a cell phone which allegedly belonged to Walton Jr.

“While Walton told lies, the cell phone was telling the truth,” Breit-Rupe said.

Future testimony on the cell phone is expected to come from a FBI agent who analyzed the phone and its location at the time of the crime.

Meanwhile, Walton’s defense attorney, Elliott Bender, began his opening statement saying, “I’ve got a man’s life in my hands.”

He added 90% of this case is not in dispute; there is nothing positive in this case, no silver linings, “she was being a kid… it was a sad tragedy.”

However, Bender asked the jury to look for bias and negligence, especially with some of the testimony. He said the Commonwealth plans to call individuals who may have been with Walton that day who “have motive and bias.”

The defense also asked the jury to use common sense and analyze what police collected and compare it to what they did not collect or do in the case.

“Let’s get the right person, not just a person,” Bender said.

During the first day of testimony, the Commonwealth called seven witnesses to the stand.

Among those called included Henrico County police officers and a firefighter.

Several of those witnesses testified to the extent of Ke’Miyah’s injuries; she was bleeding through a bandage on her forehead where two holes were, and was in and out of responsiveness.

A Henrico police sergeant who responded also called the sight of the injury “horrifying” and worked to secure the crime scene at the shopping center.

The fourth witness who testified Wednesday was Ke’Miyah’s grandmother, Tonya Harris.

Harris recalled Ke’Miyah being at the house for roughly 15 minutes before the gunfire erupted. She said the five-year-old was in the living room with other children in the front of the house when the shots were fired.

Harris testified she ran to the living room where she found her granddaughter lying on the floor bleeding from wounds to the head. From there she drove with Ke’Miyah and a man to the Oak Hill Shopping Center to eventually meet with first responders.

Harris also testified to the aftermath of the shooting regarding her granddaughter’s recovery. The five-year-old spent roughly two-and-a-half to three months in the hospital and underwent at least three surgeries. During that time, and after her discharge from the hospital, Ke’Miyah was required to wear headgear.

Harris testified Ke’Miyah has changed physically and mentally since the shooting; still has scars on her forehead and has memory loss.

During cross examination Bender asked Harris if she knew there were guns in her home, which at the time she said she was unaware of. However, she added she would not be surprised since “[she] has boys”. The guns were collected during a search warrant of the home, which is when Harries testified she was informed of the firearms.

Ke’Miyah’s aunt, who was in the home the day of the shooting, also testified Wednesday. She recalled hearing a soft noise at first and then “pow, pow, pow.” She recalled seeing Ke’Miyah on the floor and said she panicked and then ran outside to see cars going down the street and people outside shooting in the direction of the cars.

However, Henrico Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Toni Randall and Bender questioned the aunt’s testimony compared to a statement she allegedly gave Henrico Police that afternoon. They also discussed previous and current charges she faces in Henrico County Circuit Court.

While selecting a jury on Tuesday was a rigorous process, on Wednesday the court eliminated one of the jurors after the lunch recess.

The juror brought it to the court’s attention she knew an individual who had designed the headgear for Ke’Miyah in 2019. She said she follows the woman on social media and saw a news report about that headgear on television.

While the juror told the court she did not recall the facts of the case and could remain objective, the court, with the agreeance of the Commonwealth and the defense, excused the juror from the trial. The jury now sits at 13 individuals, one whom is an alternate.

The final witness called Wednesday was a forensic detective with Henrico County Police. He testified how he documented and collected evidence from the two crimes scenes – the shopping center and the home on Byron Street.

Detective Kevin Harver said he collected several cartridges outside the home, and located multiple bullets and bullet fragments embedded in the siding and windows of the house and vehicles outside.

Harver also testified to numerous holes in the side of house as well as inside the home, specially in the living room and kitchen.

He also testified to collecting three guns during the execution of the search warrant in various areas of the home, including a bedroom and under the sink in the kitchen. Harver added all firearm evidence was sent to the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for analysis.

During cross examination, Harver testified how this week in preparing for the trial, he noticed errors made in his report of the evidence. However, the photos of the scene he said were correct, rather it was a typing error.

The defense also walked through much of the evidence presented in court from Harver before adjournment for the day.

Harver is expected to be recalled to the stand on Thursday.

Judge Randall Johnson Jr. aired concern regarding the trial, citing how long the testimony of Harver has taken (more than five hours). Randall, for the Commonwealth, said she has nine more witnesses to call, which include expert witnesses from ATF and the FBI.

Court is scheduled to resume Thursday at 10 a.m.

JURY SELECTION

On Tuesday, the trial for Walton Jr. began with jury selection. This comes after the judge declared a mistrial in February due to a tainted jury.

A potential juror admitted to hearing about the case and the Commonwealth’s Attorney said he shared what he knew with other jurors - the information he had seen on social media.

During the rigorous jury selection on Tuesday, Randall and Bender, spent more than five hours questioning 36 potential jurors.

Many of those questions revolved around any connections to law enforcement, the defendant, the victims in the case, and whether they had any knowledge of this crime.

During the questioning process, Randall advised potential jurors there would be no DNA evidence presented in the case, but other forensic evidence would be provided. Some jurors said they had issues with remaining objective in the case without any DNA evidence. One woman cited how some people are convicted, serve time, and then DNA becomes available which later exonerates the individual.

Another question brought up by Bender was whether jurors could remain objective knowing one of the victims in the case was a five-year-old who was shot in the head. Several jurors said it would be difficult to remain objective throughout the case knowing that detail.

In the eyes of the state, Walton is innocent until proven guilty. This means the Commonwealth bares the burden of providing evidence to convict Walton “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Additionally, this means Walton and his defense does not have to provide any testimony or evidence.

Some jurors found issues with not being able to hear the “defense’s side” during the trial if Walton did not take the stand or provide any evidence.

Thirty-six potential jurors were questioned Tuesday, leading to 12 being struck and a jury pool of 24. From there, Randall and Bender eliminated five jurors each, to whittle the group to 12 jurors and two alternates (eight women, six men).

Following the court adjournment for the day, Randall said typically jury selections do not last all day, but due to the nature of the case, changes in the law, and COVID-19 cleaning measures in the courtroom, selection took much longer.

Henrico County Circuit Court has put multiple measures in place to ensure everyone’s safety during jury trials. In the jury box, each juror is separated by plexiglass and required to wear masks and/or face shields.

Judge Johnson Jr. advised jurors the courtroom will be cleaned at least every two hours during the trial and the air conditioning will be running to circulate air in the room.

Walton faces the following charges:

  • Aggravated malicious wounding: Carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison
  • Malicious wounding: Carries a sentence of 5-20 years in prison
  • Shooting into an occupied dwelling: Carries a sentence of 1-10 years in prison
  • Shooting from a vehicle: Carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison
  • Use of a firearm during the commission of a felony: Carries a sentence of 3 years
  • Subsequent use of a firearm during the commission of a felony: Carries a sentence of 5 years

The Commonwealth has 19 potential witnesses it plans to call while the defense has 10 potential witnesses.

Meanwhile, Walton will be back in the courtroom in late October for another four-day trial in connection to a shooting that killed one-year-old Jadiah Morris as she was asleep in her parent’s home in Henrico over two years ago.

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