STAUNTON -- An Augusta County jury Thursday convicted Jerad Michael Ross of first-degree murder in the killing of a man outside the Skyline Motel near Fishersville.
The jury recommended a 58-year sentence. Judge Victor Ludwig will set the sentence in several months following the filing of a presentence report.
Ross 23, of Hyattsville, Md., gunned down Melvin Jordan, 48, outside the motel in May. Jordan died in November of a pulmonary embolism that a state medical examiner testified resulted from wounds suffered in the shooting.
The jury deliberated for nearly three hours before delivering guilty verdicts on the murder charge and additional charges of aggravated malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of aggravated malicious wounding.
Ross wept after the verdicts were read and during the sentencing phase of the trial.
Jordan's brother Fred of Pittsburgh told the jury Jordan was in pain in the months before his death, and was reduced to a life in his room at the Skyline Motel.
"I'm still in shock. It's a void," Fred Jordan said. He said he looks at his brother's picture daily and talks to him.
Outside the Augusta County Courthouse afterward, Fred Jordan said there was pain for both the Jordan and Ross families.
Jordan's sister Deborah Stuart of Lexington said, "May Melvin rest in peace."
Ross was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 14, but never was violent, his brother Robert said.
On Thursday morning, Ross' ex-girlfriend Precious Smith testified that he had threatened to implicate her in the case unless she lied or invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when she testified.
Smith said Ross was with her at the motel May 24 when Jordan was shot.
She said Ross called her before the start of the trial, telling her he would have both her and her brother charged as accessories "and we would get about as much time as he did."
Smith said she and Ross traveled May 24 to see Jordan, who owed her $255 for money taken during a previous visit to Jordan's room.
She said Ross added a $200 collection fee. She initially talked to Jordan outside the motel as used a Weed Eater, she said.
After she walked away, Ross walked toward Jordan and the two men had an altercation, Smith said. As Smith continued to walk back to the car, she heard shots.
Smith identified Ross as the shooter and said she followed him on foot down U.S. 250 toward Waynesboro afterward.
Smith said she asked Ross if he had killed Jordan and he answered that "he didn't know."
During a cross-examination by defense attorney John Hill, Smith said she initially lied to the Augusta County Sheriff's Office about what she witnessed that day.
During later testimony, a state medical examiner testified that Jordan died in November from a pulmonary embolism that was a complication of a gunshot wound to the leg.
Dr. Amy Tharp said a blood clot blocked both arteries leading to Jordan's lungs. She said Jordan had two significant risk factors for a blood clot that included trauma to a blood vessel and being sedentary.
Jordan had difficulty with his mobility following the shooting. He used a walker.
Hill questioned the medical examiner about issues that might have led to the clot. She said Jordan had been a smoker for much of his life, and smoking is a risk factor for blood clots. Tharp also told Hill that there was no medical history available about Jordan before the 18 visits he made to the University of Virginia Medical Center for treatment after the shooting.
During closing arguments prosecutor Phil Figura noted the violent nature of Jordan's wounds. He said while Jordan attempted to walk away from the disagreement, Ross shot five times. Four of the shots wounded Jordan. Jordan suffered wounds in his abdomen and leg. Figura said the act was willful and deliberate.
Hill pointed out in his closing statement that the weapon had never been found, and that none of the witnesses saw Ross pull the trigger.
Hill said Smith's testimony was difficult to believe. She had lied to police at least twice, he said.