MANASSAS, Va. – It started with a quarrel between husband and wife about whether they want to participate in a male dance revue. It ended with the woman dead, a police officer fatally wounded and two other officers were shot and bleeding in a suburb in the north of Virginia lawn.
Jurors heard opening statements Tuesday in the death-penalty trial of an Army staff sergeant charged with killing his wife and one of the officers who responded to the scene on her first shift. The two other officers survived, but suffered serious injuries.
Ronald Hamilton, 34, an Army staff sergeant from Woodbridge, is charged with capital murder and other counts in the death of his wife, Crystal Hamilton, and the Officer Ashley Guindon.
Prosecutor Brian Boyle told jurors in opening statements that Hamilton’s actions reverberated outside the Hamilton and Guindon families.
“By the time he was ready to unleash his violence, a district was drawn, a department of the police was destroyed, three police officers were on operating tables and only two would survive,” Boyle said. “A son was left without a mother.”
Boyle said Guindon and the other officers were just a few minutes after the Crystal made her 911 call. Officer Jesse Hempen came up first, and asked Ronald to Hamilton to let him in to check on the well-being of his wife. As Hamilton closed the door, a second officer, David McKeown, came up with Guindon and tried to use his foot to force his way into the house. It was then that Hamilton began to shoot at the agents with a military-style rifle. One of the officers, despite his injuries, was able to radio his colleagues a “signal”, which means that it was an officer. That brought a massive police response.
Boyle says that when the officials came, “bodies are strewn about the front yard of the Hamilton live. … As the officers come in all they see are heaps of bright blue of the police uniforms.
Defense attorneys acknowledged that Hamilton is the shootings. Indeed, they offered shortly after Hamilton’s arrest to confess and accept a life sentence if prosecutors took the death penalty off the table. The officers of justice denied.
What is in dispute is Hamilton’s state of mind at the time of the shooting, said attorney Edward Ungvarsky, who told jurors that Hamilton lacked the intent necessary to be convicted of capital murder.
Ungvarsky said the Hamiltons’ marriage was a long time uncertain, and that is a battle that day was put down by Ronald Hamilton’s anger at his wife, plans for attending a Chippendales-style dance revue with her friends. Ronald Hamilton struck his wife during an argument, and Crystal Hamilton 911 for help. At that moment, he knew that his military career, which depended on the retention of a security clearance, and his marriage could be over.
“He felt his world was crashing down around him,” Ungvarsky said. “Passions broke out.”
Ungvarsky said Hamilton fired indiscriminately at the officers as they tried to enter his house, but that he has not intention of killing them.
Jurors heard the 911 call Crystal Hamilton made, in which she said through sobs that her husband had hit her on the ground. That last thing heard before the call disconnected was her screaming “Stop!”
Jurors also heard a written statement from the Hamiltons’ 13-year-old son, Tyriq, who was home at the time of the shooting. Both parties have agreed to let him provide a written statement that he would not have to witness the person.
The statement was read to the jury by Tyriq ‘ s grandmother.
“I heard three shots,” Tyriq wrote in the statement. “When my mother went silent.”
Hamilton, dressed in his military suit, do not speak during Tuesday’s proceedings, and often hung his head as his actions were described to the jury.
The trial is expected to take several weeks. Among those scheduled to testify are the two officers who survived the shooting, McKeown and Hempen.