Man killed after being short $3
Jury convicts on 1st degree murder, recommends 63 years
HAMPTON — Joshua David Williams owed a $20 debt early last year for a rock of crack cocaine.
If he didn’t pay up, he was told more than once, he would be killed.
Williams, 32, tried to come up with the money to pay it back by panhandling outside a Family Dollar, witnesses said.
But a prosecutor said he was only able to come up with $17 — and was still $3 short.
Even though Williams said he’d be getting a disability check the next day, that wasn’t enough to satisfy the men who came to his girlfriend’s apartment one evening to collect the money, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Christopher Young.
“They wanted the money then, and they didn’t get it,” Young said during a closing argument in a jury trial on Friday. “Because of the $3, he’s no longer alive.”
Williams was shot and killed just after 6 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2018, just outside his girlfriend’s apartment, in the Colonial Landing Apartments in the 2100 block of Kecoughtan Road.
He had been shot once in the back of the neck.
On Friday, a Hampton Circuit Court jury found J’Quan Malik Vinston, 21, of Newport News, guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy and a gun charge.
After the verdict, Young asked that jurors recommend Vinston serve life behind bars for the crime.
“That is the correct punishment for someone who does something like this, given the brutality and lack of remorse we’ve seen from this defendant,” he said.
Vinston’s defense lawyer, Nicholas Hobbs, asked the jury to sentence him to 24 years, the minimum for the crimes under law.
Hobbs said Vinston would be 45 years old if he serves that time, allowing for some possible redemption as a middle-aged man.
“He is remorseful over this,” Hobbs said. “I ask that you give J’Quan a chance.”
The jury recommended that Vinston serve 63 years — 50 years for the murder, 10 years on the conspiracy and three years for using a gun in a felony.
A co-defendant, Isaiah L. Smith, 18, of Hampton, goes to trial in April on the same charges. It’ll be the second murder trial in two years for Smith, who was acquitted last year in a separate Hampton slaying from August 2016.
Police didn’t establish who the triggerman was in Williams’ slaying.
The handgun used in the crime was later found in a garbage can at a Hampton home where both Vinston and Smith were arrested. A mixture that included DNA from Vinston, Smith and another person were on the gun, forensics experts testified.
At the trial, Hobbs, Vinston’s lawyer, laid blame for the killing on Smith, contending Smith simply “flew off the handle and did something horrible” after he went to speak to Williams.
Vinston testified that Williams actually owed $50, but promised to pay $150 after he got his disability check — and that Vinston was OK with that.
But Young said Vinston had threatened to kill Williams over the prior days. A witness also testified that Vinston was holding a black handgun — which matched the murder weapon — after the shooting, while Smith was said to have a silver handgun.
Moreover, Young said that regardless of who fired the weapon, two conspirators are culpable for the actions of each other under Virginia law.
“They came together, they worked together, they fled together and they hid together,” he said, terming Vinston and Smith “business partners.”
Williams’ mother, Rose Williams, 56, said she lost all three of her children — all in their early 30s — within a 16-month stretch. Before Joshua Williams’ 2018 death, one daughter died of a heart attack in 2016, another died of cancer in 2017.
“I thought nothing could happen to Josh,” she said.
Joshua Williams, she said, had a developmental disability stemming from having the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck at birth. That led to him getting picked on in school and dropping out after the eighth grade.
But he had a kindness about him, his mother said. He would often do auto mechanic work for free if people had no money to pay him, because he knew people needed their cars.
“All I do is cry,” she said of the past year. “I can’t sleep. I miss him more than life . ... He was a great kid, sweet, good sense of humor. I can’t say enough about Josh.”
He leaves behind three girls, ages 13, 11 and 8.
Rose Williams’ fiance, Bill Jenkins, 52, said he wished Joshua WIlliams had asked him for the money he needed. “$3, that’s all it was,” he said. “If he needed $20, he could have just called me.”
Hampton Circuit Court Judge Michael Gaten will sentence Vinston at a date to be set later.