Jury finds Norfolk man guilty in murder-for-hire case

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s the kind of case that sounds like something you would see on a television crime drama.

A jury has found Anthony Johnson guilty of all charges against him, including attempted capital murder, conspiracy to commit capital murder and malicious wounding.

Prosecutors say Johnson hired three men to kill his wife, Elizabeth Shelton, for insurance money. Shelton was eight months pregnant at the time.

The attempted murder happened at the Colony Point apartments in Norfolk.

Closing arguments ended around noon Monday.

Johnson said in an interview last year that he is innocent in this case and only guilty of trying to help three misguided acquaintances.

In court on Thursday, the Commonwealth brought three key witnesses to the stand, including two of the alleged conspirators: Tristan Reeder and Joseph Apodaca.

Finally, the court heard from the victim, Elizabeth Shelton. Shelton vividly described the night of the attack.

“I thought it was a nightmare,” she said on the stand.

Shelton said she went to sleep and woke up to a man choking her and brutally beating her inside the bedroom she shared with her husband. Only later did she find out someone attacked her husband as well.

According to police, the two men involved in the attack were Robert Burnette and Tristan Reeder. A third man, Joseph Apodaca, knew about the attack. All three were homeless and had lived with Johnson and Shelton on and off for months.

On the day of the attack, Shelton asked Johnson to kick them out. The defense has given this as the reason for the attack.

When Apodaca and Reeder took the stand, their testimony painted a different picture. They both said Tony Johnson told them his wife had a $400,000 life insurance policy.

The two men claimed Johnson outlined a plan to kill her on the day of the attack. They said that it was supposed to look like a home invasion.

According to Apodaca, Burnette would kill Shelton, Reeder would deal with Johnson and Apodaca would stay quiet. In exchange, Johnson would divide up the $400,000 between himself and the three men.

On Friday, Johnson took the stand.

On the stand, he was adamant that he never would have hurt his wife. He believes the men attacked him and his wife out of revenge. Johnson said he told the three men they couldn’t stay at this home anymore, an order that came from his wife.

He believes the men were angry about losing a place to stay. That’s the reason he claimed the men attacked him, not any insurance policy.

Johnson went on to say that he never discussed the insurance policy with the three men. He believes they overheard him and his wife discussing the policy one night.

The jury recommended a sentence of 35 years: 25 years for the attempted capital murder charge and five years each for the conspiracy to commit capital murder and malicious wounding charges.

Johnson’s formal sentencing is set for July 8.

Burnette and Reeder are set to enter their pleas for the murder-for-hire plot on June 15 and June 6, respectively. Apodaca, who pleaded guilty in Feb., is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3.

Comments are closed.