A Virginia man who shot two missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2006, killing one and wounding another, was convicted of murder in Chesapeake, Virginia on December 12th, 2008. Virginia media stories provided by the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot and KVEC Channel 13 in Hampton Roads. Colorado media story provided by the Greeley Tribune. Utah media story provided by KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake.
After deliberating for three days in Chesapeake Circuit Court, the jury returned the verdicts on December 12th against James Boughton Jr., 22, finding Boughton guilty of first-degree murder, malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding and three counts of use of a firearm. Judge Randy Smith asked the jury to return on Monday December 15th for the sentencing phase. Boughton, a Camelot resident, faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison. KSL news video embedded below:
The story originally began on January 2nd, 2006, when LDS missionaries Morgan W. Young of Bountiful, UT and Joshua Neidbrink of Greeley, CO were proselytizing in the Deep Creek section of Chesapeake when they walked into a violent neighborhood dispute. James Boughton had attempted to shoot an Elkhart Street resident, Gregory Banks Jr., and was fleeing the area when he crossed paths with the missionaries. Although the missionaries assured Boughton that they hadn't seen anything, Boughton, armed with a 9 mm gun, shot them both and fled. Morgan Young subsequently died of a wound to the head, while Heidbrink got help at the nearby Charity House. Heidbrink received wounds on his neck and shoulder, but was released within a week and returned to his hometown of Greeley to recover.
The trial was plagued by procedural delays, best explained in a comment posted to the KSL story:
Cpsmurf @ 6:54pm - Fri Dec 12th, 2008
...In Virginia, a defendant in murder charges first appears at an arraignment (Feb 2006). Then a preliminary hearing (Apr 2006). Then the evidence is sent to a grand jury (Jul 2006).
The original trial was scheduled Oct. 31, 2006 at which time the defense asked for more time to prepare a defense. The trial was set for four days.
The next scheduled trial was postponed in March 2007 because the original defense attorney asked to be removed from the case.
The trial scheduled in October 2007 was postponed because the new attorney had not had time to prepare a defense.
The next scheduled trial was postponed in May 2008, because of new evidence being presented by the prosecution. The trial was set for seven days.
In November, the trial was set for two weeks. The defense tried to get it postponed because of more new evidence that the prosecution was going to present.
Boughton tried to blame the crime on someone else. His defense attorney, Andrew Sacks, argued his client was at a friend's house in Camelot playing video games the night of the shootings, producing several "witnesses" who supported the alibi. Sacks also argued that the real shooter that night was Mario Felton, a 17-year-old who was feuding with Banks over $80 in drug money. Felton initially told police he was the one who fired the 9 mm weapon three times that night, but later told police he made the story up to cover for Boughton.
But Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney D.J. Hansen used DNA evidence on the weapon and a sweatshirt belonging to Boughton which was left at the scene, along with testimony from a Chesapeake teen to link Boughton to the crime. The surviving victims, Heidbrink and Banks, were unable to identify the hooded gunman, although Banks testified in court that he "played dead" after being shot at, heard the gunman run away, then heard two more shots.
Boughton's family reacted badly to the verdict, becoming visibly upset as the verdicts were read. "There's no evidence! You knew it wasn't fair!" Boughton's uncle said. But they did not play the race card. In contrast, Winslow Young says he feels great empathy for Boughton's family. "That's got to be a tragedy, just something horrible to deal with. They're going to have to deal with it the rest of their lives," he said. But while Winslow says his own family will have to deal with Morgan's death, they find comfort in knowing he's in a better place. "Rather than focusing on the tragedy, just focus on the fact that he's in a better place; and you know, our faith sustains us," he said. [Ed. Note: That illustrates the value of faith. In a case like this, faith doesn't lessen the pain; it simply provides a way to better manage the pain.]
Update December 15th: The Virginian-Pilot is now reporting that Boughton's defense lawyer Andrew Sacks wants a mistrial because a police officer who testified in the case was later present in the courtroom and that an alternate, who sat near the victim’s family, who may have developed a relationship with the sitting jury, could have influenced the verdict. Judge Randy Smith acknowledged the defense’s motion for a mistrial but asked that Sacks file it at a later time so the jury could begin the sentencing phase. That is set to begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Dec. 16).
Update December 16th: The Virginian-Pilot is now reporting that the jury recommended a sentence of 38 years and six months for James Boughton Jr., the man convicted of killing one Mormon missionary and wounding another in 2006 in Deep Creek. The trial judge will officially impose the sentence at a hearing set for April. News video available at the KSL Channel 5 website.
Update March 29th, 2010: A judge accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Boughton to 38 1/2 years.
Additional background can be found on both the ForgottenVictims website, and on a discussion thread on New Nation News forum dating back to January 2006.
The LDS Church takes no official position on capital punishment. In May 2003, they issued the following statement: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards the question of whether and in what circumstances the state should impose capital punishment as a matter to be decided solely by the prescribed processes of civil law. We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment".
However, Mormonism-Unveiled is an enthusiastic supporter of capital punishment, and believes it would be quite applicable in this case. Boughton deliberately took a human life for personal gain pursuant to the commission of another crime, and thus has no rehabilitation potential.