On the night before she was shot to death, Shawndre Fulton, eight months pregnant, was riding a bus next to her boyfriend, Darius T. Hicks, on their way to her Fairfax County home. That's when Hicks reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag containing bullets, a friend who was with them testified yesterday.
"I'm going to kill this [woman]," Hicks told Damon Venable as he pulled two bullets out of the bag, Venable testified. "This one's for her," Venable said Hicks told him. "This one's for me."
Early Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 25, 2004, Fulton, 21, was found shot to death in Mount Vernon Woods Park.
Hicks, 32, was arrested two weeks later in Florida and eventually was charged with murder and unlawfully killing a fetus, under a statute passed by the Virginia General Assembly last year.
Hicks's trial began yesterday in Fairfax County Circuit Court. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said that Hicks was the father of Fulton's baby and that an autopsy found that the fetus was healthy and in position to be delivered several weeks later.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for Hicks, although the capital murder statute allows the death penalty in the slaying of a pregnant woman. After indicting Hicks on a lesser charge, Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said the law required prosecutors to prove that the suspect intended to kill the fetus, and he said, "There's no evidence that his reason for doing this killing was to kill the fetus."
In his opening statement, Morrogh said Fulton was shot seven or eight times with a .22-caliber gun. He said that when Fairfax homicide detectives tried to interview Hicks in Florida, he initially declined to talk.
But Hicks changed his mind, Morrogh said. Hicks told the detectives that "he was teasing Shawndre with the gun, it went off accidentally and continued to fire," Morrogh said. He said Hicks told police that Fulton "somehow stayed in front of where the gun was. He just panicked and ran for help."
The detectives asked to record Hicks's statement, and he did not repeat his story, Morrogh said. Hicks then said he was not involved at all. Finally, he renewed his claim that the shooting was an accident, Morrogh said.
Hicks's lawyer, Vanessa Antoun, said her client made his admission of involvement only after being interrogated by the detectives for four hours. When police showed Hicks photos of Fulton's body after the killing, and then the fetus, "he started to cry," she said. Antoun said Hicks "made up a statement based on what he knew, the information they had told him," in order to "end the physical torture" of the questioning.
Antoun noted that there were no witnesses to the shooting. And one key prosecution witness, who Morrogh said would link Hicks to the murder weapon, backed out of his earlier claim once on the witness stand.
Morrogh told the jury that David Selby would testify that Hicks had an unusual gun the night before the killing -- a .22-caliber rifle with the stock and barrel sawed off -- and that Hicks threw down the gun and Selby picked it up. But with Hicks glaring at him on the witness stand, Selby said he could not recall that day.
A .22-caliber rifle with the stock and barrel sawed off has been recovered, and ballistics have matched it to the bullets that killed Fulton, Morrogh said.
Morrogh also told the jury that in May 2004, Hicks was seen hitting Fulton and choking her even as police arrived.
The man who discovered Fulton's body, Matthew Grimes, testified that he had seen Hicks and Fulton fighting months earlier, tried to intervene and was assaulted by Hicks.