UPDATE: HINTON, WV (WVNS) Apr. 9, 2021 — A week long murder trial ends with a guilty verdict.
Thomas Sanford’s mother reached to the sky after the judge read the verdict.
“We the jury, find the defendant, guilty of murder in the first degree without recommendation of mercy,” Judge Irons read the jury’s verdict.
Sanford was shot and killed by Anthony Johnson, over drugs and money.
“That’s my baby brother. My mother’s only son,” said Amber Sanford, the victim’s sister.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Robert Dunlap argued Sanford’s death was an accident and the state did not prove Johnson was guilty of murder.
“He’s a human being. And frankly, he’s not someone to be feared as a person. And he hasn’t been proven of murder. Not beyond a reasonable doubt,” Dunlap said.
Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Cook, argued Johnson knew exactly what he was doing the night Sanford died.
“This was a cold blooded killing. This was done with premeditation, with deliberation. He knew when he placed that gun to his chest, Thomas Sanford didn’t have a fighting chance,” Cook said.
The Jury agreed with the prosecution. They delivered the verdict of guilty for first degree murder with no mercy.
The family said they are happy with the jury’s decision. Amber Sanford said she knows her brother was an addict, but he still didn’t deserve to die
“No one deserve to be murdered over money, or drugs, or anything really,” Sanford said.
As the jurors left the courtroom, Sanford’s mother thanked every single one. And as Johnson left the courtroom, he had one last request before he spends the rest of his life in prison.
“Call my mom,” Johnson said.
UPDATE: HINTON, WV (WVNS) Apr. 7, 2021 — The trial for Anthony Johnson continues a third day. He’s on trial for the murder of Thomas Sanford — who was shot and killed in Meadow Creek in December 2018.
Prosecution still has the case. Wednesday, April 7, 2021, was spent listening to the testimony of Mike Yancey. He was in the home the night Sanford was murdered, and claimed he saw Johnson shoot Sanford.
“He just pulled his gun back and put it in. I saw a little piece of the barrel because his hand was covering it. But he stuck it in his pocket. He just stepped out of the way and Tommy fell. He didn’t buckle his knees or nothing, he just fell face forward,” Yancey said.
Defense Attorney Robert Dunlap questioned Yancey, bringing into question the statements he made to police. He pointed out discrepancies between his testimony and his statements. However, Yancey said he was scared to tell the truth at first.
“If he beats this case, I’m probably a dead man. Whether you know that or not. I do. I know,” Yancey said.
Some other witnesses include a man who said he drove the suspect from the crime scene to Beckley. As well as the landlord who owned the home where the crime took place.
Day three ended with Sgt. Wood with the state police. He investigated the crime, but more importantly took statements from another witness, Marshell Pope. She put Johnson at the scene of the crime.
Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Cook then played Johnson’s statements to the jury as well.
HINTON, WV (WVNS) — A man is accused of shooting and killing a man over drugs and money. He is on trial for murder in Summers County.
The trial began for Anthony Johnson Tuesday, April 6, 2021. He is on trial for the murder of Thomas Sanford.
Prosecuting Attorney Kristin Cook said Johnson shot Sanford after an argument over a small amount of drugs and money.
“Anthony Devaughn Johnson is that plague. He brings his drugs into your community and feeds his drug to your local addicts,” Cook said.
Defense Attorney Robert Dunlap asked the jury to consider the possibility someone else pulled the trigger.
“Ultimately, all we can do today is decide if somebody committed a crime of murder. Despite the best efforts of the state of West Virginia, they will not be able to convince you that my client murdered him in cold blood,” Dunlap said.
Then, it was time for the prosecution to call witnesses. First up was the medical examiner who did the autopsy on Sanford. He showed the jury where the bullet entered the body, killing him.
Dunlap cross examined him, bringing into evidence the toxicology report.
Other witnesses include an investigating officer, and witnesses who saw Sanford the day he was shot. One witness, Jay Yancey, testified he was present on the day of the crime, and witnessed Johnson and Sanford arguing.
“It got really loud,” Yancey said. “Who was arguing,” Cook asked. “It was Ant and Tommy. They were arguing over money or something, I couldn’t quite make it out,” Yancey testified.
Yancey said he confidently believed Johnson shot Sanford. However, Dunlap then questioned why Yancey did not call 911 right when the shot was fired. Yancey replied he feared for his own life.
The trial continues Wednesday, April 7, 2021.