A Loudoun County Circuit Court jury has recommended that a Manassas drug dealer spend 35 years in prison for fatally shooting one of his customers at a Leesburg apartment.
Tyrone Smith, 20, was convicted Friday of second-degree murder in the slaying of John G. Zimmerman, 38, who was shot March 27, 2003, in his apartment on Clubhouse Drive. Prosecutors said Smith fired the shots from the parking lot into Zimmerman's garden apartment moments after the two were engaged in a scuffle that started when Zimmerman complained about the quality of the cocaine he had bought and came at Smith with a knife, cutting his face.
Smith was also convicted of firing a gun into an occupied dwelling, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder and possessing a firearm while carrying illegal drugs, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be formally sentenced Oct. 1 by Circuit Judge Thomas D. Horne, who can decrease but not increase the jury's recommended sentence.
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney James P. Fisher, who prosecuted the case, said he was pleased with the verdict. "I felt like they were very thorough and conscientious," Fisher said. "Hopefully, the victim's family can start to develop some closure."
During Smith's four-day trial, his attorneys said their client intended only to scare Zimmerman and thought he was firing shots into an empty room. They said Smith was angered and shocked over being cut by Zimmerman.
Prosecutors said Smith first encountered Zimmerman earlier the day of the killing when Zimmerman and his friends, who wanted to buy crack cocaine, paged Smith. Smith set up the deal, they said.
Later the same day, Smith returned to Zimmerman's apartment complex and made a second sale, prosecutors said. After Smith left, they said, he went to a nearby gas station, and Zimmerman and his friends paged a third time, asking Smith to come back.
When Smith returned, prosecutors said, Zimmerman demanded his money back, complaining about the quality of the drugs. They said he pulled a knife and cut Smith.
Moments later, prosecutors said, Smith went to the parking lot, fired four shots into Zimmerman's apartment and left. Zimmerman was hit twice.
On the opening day of his trial, Smith pleaded guilty to distribution of cocaine.