A Bryantown man accused of fatally shooting his neighbor's 2-year-old son and critically wounding the boy's father, apparently over a petty dispute, has been formally charged with murder.
John A. Booth Jr., 55, was initially charged with attempted first-degree murder on Oct. 29 for allegedly shooting Michael Meadows, 32, and his son, Will, both of whom lived on property adjacent to Booth's in rural Bryantown.
Will Meadows died from a gunshot wound to the head on Oct. 30, and authorities did not charge Booth with murder until he was indicted by a grand jury last month. Booth is also charged with the attempted murder of Michael Meadows and assault with a firearm.
Michael Meadows survived a gunshot wound to the head suffered as he drove away from his home on Booth Place with his son. He has since been discharged from Washington Hospital Center, a spokeswoman said.
A day after the shooting, Booth was arrested in Prince William County when he pulled up to two Virginia State Police troopers on the side of a highway and told them, "I'm the guy you're looking for," state police said.
In charging documents, detectives said Meadows and Booth had an ongoing, seemingly inane dispute over a security light that may have led to the shooting. The light angered Booth because it shone on his property, and he would express his displeasure by driving his van near the Meadows home, turning on the bright lights, honking the horn and once shooting at the house with a rifle, according to a peace order Michael Meadows applied for in Charles County District Court.
It's unclear from court documents, though, what provoked the incident on Oct. 29, and sheriff's officials have not publicly offered any answers.
Court documents and Booth's neighbors suggest the shooting was another instance in a pattern of bizarre behavior by a reclusive man who regularly stalked through the woods of his property with a rifle.
In 1989, a Charles County man accused Booth of shooting at him and his nephew as they went hunting on an adjacent property.
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he went looking for his hunting beagles, which had strayed onto another property, when he found both the dogs and Booth, who had a rifle.
"He was quite upset about the fact that they were there . . . he was kicking the dogs," the man said. "I got the dogs, and I'm walking back across the fields, and the next thing I know there's bullets flying all across my feet, kicking up dust."
The man told police and assault charges were filed in District Court. Booth was acquitted in a trial decided by a judge, according to court documents.
Neighbors of Booth said he was angry when Meadows and his wife, Tara, moved to Booth Place three years ago and bought a home that had been in his family for generations. Booth's family has lived on about 200 acres of land in Bryantown since the turn of the 20th century, and the Meadows family were, as one neighbor put it, the first "newcomers."
Neighbor Ed Stewart, 67, said Booth was intensely protective of his land and would ward off strangers with a gun.
"He did a lot of shooting back there," Stewart said. "Bang, bang, bang, bang. . . . I've been hearing that for a while."