An Alexandria jury yesterday convicted a 25-year-old man of shooting to death his childhood friend, whose body was found slumped on the front stoop of a house at the edge of Old Town.
After deliberating for about seven hours, the Circuit Court jury found Eric F. Jones of Alexandria guilty of second-degree murder and a related firearms charge in the March 8 slaying of Corey M. Hargrow. The jury recommended a sentence of 13 years in prison.
Hargrow, 21, of Alexandria, was shot several times about 11 p.m. in the 700 block of North Fayette Street, not far from the Braddock Road Metro station. Jones was arrested a few days later as he left Hargrow's funeral.
The conviction came two months after another jury was unable to agree on whether Jones was responsible for Hargrow's death. That trial was held in August, and the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of a conviction.
Circuit Court Judge Richard Jamborsky will formally sentence Jones next year. Jurors concluded that he should receive 10 years for the shooting and three years for the firearms charge, a mandatory punishment. Under Virginia law, judges can accept or reduce jury sentences; they cannot increase them.
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Krista Boucher said she was "delighted the family has some closure." Jones's attorney, George J. Wooditch Jr., declined to comment.
Several witnesses said they saw Jones fire repeatedly at Hargrow. A jail inmate, Dawit Meshesha, testified that Jones confessed to the slaying.
The 9mm handgun used in the shooting was never found, nor was there any DNA or other forensic evidence linking Jones to the slaying, the first of two homicides in Alexandria this year.
Witnesses testified during the two-day trial that they rarely saw Jones without Hargrow, that the pair had been best friends since they were children. And so it surprised them, several testified, when they looked out their windows and saw Jones wildly waving his left hand in the air, shouting something about being taken for granted. According to their testimony, Jones fired several rounds at Hargrow, striking him three times, twice in the back.
"This is an eyewitness case," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter told the jury in his closing argument. Then he added: "This man wasn't his friend. A friend doesn't shoot you in the back and leave you to bleed to your death."
But in asking the jury to acquit his client, Wooditch said witnesses see different things at different times, unable to form a complete picture with all of the bits and pieces.
"He had no motive to shoot his best friend," Wooditch said.
In a crowded courtroom on the fourth floor, Jones told the jury that he and Hargrow were close, almost like brothers. They were approached by a group of men he didn't recognize from the neighborhood, he said, and at least two of them were armed. One fired at them after shouting, "You know what time it is."
Witnesses attested to seeing a group of people, including Jones and Hargrow, hanging out near an alley that cuts between two rowhouses on North Fayette Street that bitterly-cold night in March, but the jury agreed that Jones ended Hargrow's life.