Man sentenced for murdering cocaine dealer

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach jury found a Portsmouth man guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Rafael Hernandez on Friday.

After a three-day trial, the jury found 37-year-old Ulysses Lee Keeling guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, and use of a firearm. Jury members recommended a sentence of 40 years in prison, according to Macie Pridgen with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Virginia Beach.

Pridgen said the Commonwealth’s evidence proved Hernandez sold cocaine to Keeling via two other men on December 27, 2012. Keeling, however, was unhappy with the quality of the drug and wanted to confront Hernandez. So, the two men and Keeling drove from Portsmouth to Virginia Beach, where Hernandez got in the vehicle.

“Keeling got angry with Hernandez, pulled out a gun, and demanded his property. After giving Keeling some of his property, including his jacket, Hernandez, who was unarmed, began to resist,” Pridgen said.

Hernandez was shot in the chest, stumbled out of the vehicle onto a road, where his body was later found.

“Detectives with the Virginia Beach Police Department were able to trace one of the men involved through cell phone records. That man was interviewed and able to identify Keeling as the shooter. Investigators also found the Charger a few days later. They found a shell casing and the victim’s blood in the back of the car,” Pridgen said.

Keeling was previously convicted for possession with intent to distribute, possession of cocaine, and habitual offender. He will be formally sentenced for Hernandez’ murder on October 1.

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