A Loudoun County Circuit Court jury recommended Friday that Arlando Valentine, 25, be sentenced to life in prison for what prosecutors described as an execution-style killing last spring outside the former Loudoun House apartments.
The jurors, who convicted Valentine on Wednesday of first-degree murder in the slaying of 18-year-old Amos "Ty" Hicks, deliberated 1 1/2 hours before asking Judge John H. Chamblin to give Valentine a life term at his sentencing Jan. 27.
Prosecutors said Valentine shot Hicks once in the back from across a parking lot the evening of March 24 in retaliation for a fight the men had had that afternoon over an attempted drug buy. Valentine then walked up to Hicks and shot him twice in the head while Hicks pleaded for his life, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Friday they were pleased with the verdict and the recommended sentence.
"We hope it conveys the message that this type of activity is not going to be ignored in Loudoun County," Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Owen D. Basham said outside the courtroom. "While it did not come out quite that way at trial, the word on the street was that this was a drug-turf issue and that the defendant was attempting to develop a monopoly."
Police found marijuana when they searched the Sterling apartment that Valentine shared with his girlfriend, investigators testified. According to prosecutors and defense attorneys, Hicks had several rocks of crack cocaine in his sock when he was killed.
During Friday's brief sentencing hearing, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle L. Domen called the shooting "cold blooded." She noted that Valentine has a drug conviction in Prince George's County and told jurors that he "can't be rehabilitated."
"You have an individual who was shot in the back and was unable to flee," Domen said. "Mr. Valentine put two additional bullets in his head."
Valentine's mother, Joyce Valentine-Ford, was the only witness who testified in the sentencing phase of the trial. She pleaded with the jury to recommend the minimum 20-year punishment.
Valentine-Ford said her son has seven children. Shortly before his arrest in March, he had been accepted to a Washington trade school program in digital engineering, she said.
"Lando has always been one who saw the good in everyone," Valentine-Ford said. His children "have been his momentum to get a job . . . to be the father he never had."
Before leaving the witness stand, Valentine-Ford asked: "Can I hug my child?" Because of security reasons, she was not permitted to approach Valentine.
Valentine-Ford said her son, who said he was walking his dog and visiting friends in Washington the evening of the slaying, will appeal the verdict.
Hicks's mother, Joan Hicks, attended the hearing but declined to comment. She has said she moved her family from Washington to Sterling several years ago because she feared that her three sons were hanging out with a bad crowd.
The jury convicted Valentine on Wednesday after three days of testimony. Prosecutors had no physical evidence linking Valentine to the scene, and the case rested largely on the eyewitness account of former Loudoun House resident Nikkia Payne.
Payne, 18, who had dated Hicks and knew Valentine, testified that she was walking with Hicks in a courtyard that residents called "The Hole" when she heard shots and watched her friend slump to the ground. Seconds later, a masked gunman approached and fired a shot into Hicks's head, Payne testified.
Payne told jurors she watched as the gunman removed his mask and fired a second shot. She said that she saw the man's face clearly and that it was Valentine's.
Tomeka Allen, a witness for the defense, testified that she saw Payne inside a Loudoun House building moments after the first shots were fired. Allen said she watched as Payne went outside and discovered that Hicks had been shot.
Attorneys for both sides said the dispute between the two men began earlier that day at Loudoun House, which was the county's largest subsidized apartment complex before it closed last year. It reopened last week as Mayfair Commons, renting at market rates.
Valentine told police that he and his girlfriend, Chevette Williams, tried to buy a $10 bag of marijuana from Hicks and that a fight broke out after Hicks insulted Williams. Payne testified that she saw the fight break up and heard a warning yelled from the car as Valentine and Williams pulled out: "We'll be back. You gonna get yours."
In addition to the life sentence, the jury also recommended that Valentine be sentenced to the required three-year prison term on a charge of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Chamblin can impose the jury's recommended sentence or a lesser punishment but not a harsher one.
The slaying was the first in Leesburg since 1995.