By Charlie Russell
The trial of Evron Terrell Strand of Accomac began Tuesday in Accomack County Circuit Court. Strand is charged with several counts of soliciting murder, conspiracy to commit Capital Murder, Attempted Capital Murder, Conspiracy to commit obstruction of Justice, Attempted Obstruction of Justice Malicious Wounding and Use of a Firearm. There are a total of 16 counts pending against Strand
Strand, as a prisoner in the Accomack County Jail is charged with attempting to arrange a hit job on Nathaniel Johnson. Johnson, was working as an informant for the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force. Johnson was given money to buy cocaine from Akeem Rogers in Northampton County and Strand in Accomack County. Johnson testified against Rogers in a trial in Northampton County in October of 2017.
On October 31, 2017 Johnson and a friend Desiree Smith were walking toward his car in Linhaven Circle in Painter. Both were shot with Johnson being hit in the back and thigh and Smith being hit in the foot. Both Johnson and Smith identified the shooter as Roquan Rogers, aka Cake who was the brother of Akeem Rogers.
In his opening remarks, Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan said that the Commonwealth will prove that Strand, a prisoner at the time in the Accomack County Jail contacted five individuals attempting to arrange the shooting for hire. Strand used the phone at the jail to contact the individuals involved.
Morgan told the jury that the trial would not only be about the shooting but why the victims were shot and what went on before they were shot. He said that the motive was to harm Mr. Johnson and that the Commonwealth will link this with Johnson’s testifying in Akeem Rogers’ trial.
Morgan said all of the phone conversations took place on a recorded line and they will be presented to the jury during the trial . He told the jury they would have no trouble understanding Strand’s intent.
Morgan also said will present phone records to show the contact with the co conspirators. He also said that although Mr. Strand was incarcerated when the crime occurred, he is responsible because he initiated the act.
Morgan told the jury that witnesses like Nathaniel Johnson should be able to testify without being injured or killed..
Defense Attorney Ken Singleton of Virginia Beach in his opening remarks asked the jury not to jump to any conclusions but take your time and wait until all of the evidence is in before you decide..
Singleton pointed out the Johnson was paid by the Drug Task Force to set up individuals and then testify in court against them. He said that the week prior to the shooting, Johnson knew there may be people after him from internet threats and the fact that he had been followed in a couple of occasions.
Singleton questioned whether Strand was the only individual who might want to harm Johnson.
Singleton said he would attempt to weaken the Commonwealth’s case by questioning the motives of potential witnesses.
The first witness was Nathaniel Johnson. Johnson was asked about the events of October 31, 2017 when he and Smith were shot. Johnson testified that he and Smith were walking on the street near a wooded area when he heard rustling in some nearby bushes and that an individual who he identified as Cake stepped out and shot both of them.
Johnson testified that he then ran to his car but discovering his keys were missing, ran to his grandmother’s home which was where his car was parked.
Johnson and Smith were then transported to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital where Johnson was transferred to the Nightengale to Sentara Norfolk General.
On cross examination, Singleton asked Johnson about how much he was paid by the Drug Task Force to make the buys and testify against the defendants. John said payment ranged from $250 to $800.
Singleton pressed Johnson on what he called death treats posted against Johnson on line and tried to establish that there were others who had threatened him.
Singleton got Johnson to testify that the person following him was Cake who was Akeem Rogers’ brother.
Next to testify was Desiree Smith who testified that both were shot in the way Johnson had stated. Smith’s testimony conflicted with Johnson’s in that Johnson testified he never used drugs but Smith said she had seen him doing drugs.
Deputy Nottingham of the Accomack County Sheriff’s Department was the first deputy on scene and testified that he found Johnson laid out in the front door of his grandmother’s mobile home. Nottingham testified that he followed the ambulance to Riverside Shore Memorial but that Johnson wasn’t in a condition to provide much information.
The trial went into recess Tuesday afternoon and will continue Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. The trial is expected to run three days