Staff Sgt. Ronald “Ronnie” Hamilton, a Pentagon IT specialist who shot and killed his wife and a newly sworn police officer, was found guilty Wednesday by a Prince William County jury of capital murder, making him eligible for the death penalty.
Jurors will next decide whether Hamilton, 34, should be sentenced to life in prison or become the fourth person on Virginia’s death row.
Hamilton’s crimes came during a 2016 domestic dispute with his wife at their Woodbridge home. The slain Prince William police officer, Ashley Guindon, 29, was among the officers who responded to a 911 call at the house.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors depicted Hamilton as an adulterer and jealous husband who grew increasingly irate at his wife, Crystal Hamilton, 29, a recovery care coordinator for wounded Marines. On Feb. 27, 2016, the couple started fighting after Crystal Hamilton said she was going out with girlfriends to a male entertainment club. Their then-11-year-old son, Tyriq, had just arrived home from a sleepover and began watching his parents argue.
As the quarrel grew more intense, Ronald Hamilton threw his wife against a wall of her bedroom — their marriage had disintegrated so much that they had been sleeping in separate quarters. Crystal Hamilton called 911. Then, Tyriq heard three gunshots and his mother’s screams go silent.
As the boy fled the house, police arrived. Ronald Hamilton emerged at the doorway and fatally shot Guindon, a former Marine reservist who was deployed on her first weekend shift. He also shot and wounded two other officers, Jesse Hempen and David McKeown, both in their 30s. Guindon was shot in the back, Hempen in the leg, and McKeown in the chest, leg and groin. Prosecutors said it was lucky the other two officers survived.
Eventually, Hamilton came out of his house peacefully and officers took him into custody.
During opening statements, Ed Ungvarsky, one of Hamilton’s attorneys, said that his client did not mean to kill police officers and that he wasn’t even aiming his weapon when he shot at them. As soon as he was arrested, Ungvarsky said, Hamilton started bawling and asking about whether the officers survived.
Hamilton, who did not testify, has always acknowledged that he was the shooter. Shortly after he was arrested, he told authorities that he had deployed to Iraq twice and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.
During closing arguments, Gene Hart, another defense attorney on the case, asked jurors to convict Hamilton on any charge except capital murder to avoid the death penalty, according to the Associated Press. Hart said Hamilton did not kill Guindon or his wife with premeditation.
Hamilton grew up in South Carolina. His father, also named Ronald Hamilton, was second-in-command for many years in the Charleston, S.C., police force before his retirement in 2001.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the defense attorney who delivered closing arguments.