In September 2015, a Fauquier County Circuit Court jury found Carroll Edward “Tootie” Gregg, 55, of Marshall, guilty in the killing of Junior Jordan Montero Sanchez, of Hyattsville, Maryland. Gregg claims he accidentally shot Sanchez on June 6, 2014 when the 23-year-old showed up to repossess his truck at the apartments on Conde Road.
Gregg was convicted of both common-law involuntary manslaughter and the statutory offense of unlawful shooting of an occupied vehicle resulting in death. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison, with six suspended.
In February, an intermediate court panel ruled Gregg could only be convicted for one of the two charges related to Sanchez’s killing, citing double jeopardy. That decision could reduce Gregg’s sentence from 20 years to 10. Now, a higher court will review that ruling.
According to Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Fisher, the statutory charge is labeled “involuntary manslaughter” in the Code of Virginia, even though the elements of the offense are different from common-law involuntary manslaughter.
Warrenton defense attorney Blair Howard, who represented Gregg at trial and in his appeal, originally challenged the combined convictions in circuit court, but Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. ruled the convictions were separate offenses under the law.
On Feb. 28, a three-judge panel of the Virginia Court of Appeals reversed Whisenant’s decision, ruling only one of the crimes could stand for a total punishment of 13 years. The intermediate court panel’s decision ruled the second charge constituted double jeopardy.
Fisher said the panel’s decision appears to reverse a body of case law that allows for charges to be pursued and cumulatively punished, as long as the elements of the crimes are different.
If the commonwealth wins its appeal, Gregg’s original sentence will be reinstated and both convictions will be upheld.
“It will indeed be interesting to see the outcome in the Virginia Supreme Court,” said Fisher. “I know the Senior Assistant Attorney General is doing a fantastic job navigating the appeals process.”
Appeals of criminal cases are usually handled by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
Details of the case
Around midnight on June 6, 2014, Sanchez and Alex Marin arrived at Gregg’s apartment off Conde Road in Marshall to repossess Gregg’s 2004 GMC Sierra truck after he defaulted on payments to a title lender, according to testimony in Fauquier Circuit Court.
When the truck’s alarm sounded, Gregg awoke and yelled “get the f—out of here” at the two men from his window, according to testimony. When Sanchez and Marin heard the yelling, they drove away with the truck in tow.
Just after the truck began to drive away on Conde Road, Marin heard a loud shot ring out, according to testimony. The bullet pierced through the tow truck and into Sanchez’s heart and lungs, killing him, according to the medical examiner.
Right before he was killed, Sanchez became a naturalized U.S. citizen and married, according to his colleagues. Sanchez had just taken the job to save for a wedding ring for his wife.
Marin told the court he only heard one shot fired, which contradicted testimony from a neighbor who reported hearing more than one shot.
Gregg did not deny he fired the gun during the incident, but claimed he fired it by accident, according to court records. When questioned by deputies, Gregg said, “It was an accident. I shot, I fell and I shot again.”
Warrenton defense attorney Blair Howard argued Gregg’s truck had been repossessed twice before without any strife or aggression and the incident was an unfortunate accident. Howard told the court Gregg accidently fired the second shot when he tripped in a ditch and he had no intention of killing Sanchez.
The bullet fragmented when it passed through the metal of the tow truck, according to testimony. No shell casings were ever found at the scene of the slaying. Deputies used metal detectors, rappelled down a ravine behind Gregg’s apartment building and dispatched a K-9 unit to search the property and a Virginia State Police dive team to search a pond, but no casings were ever found.
Howard made a motion to strike the murder charge during the trial because he said prosecutors didn’t show any evidence of premeditation or malice to support the charge. Judge Whisenant denied the motion and left for the jury to decide.
The jury found Gregg guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter after nine and a half hours of deliberation.
Source: Fauquier Times