Man receives maximum sentence for death of friend found in Suffolk lake

Nathaniel C. McCoy, Jr., age 21, of Portsmouth was arrested on charges of first degree murder in the death of Donta Williams.
Nathaniel C. McCoy, Jr., age 21, of Portsmouth was arrested on charges of first degree murder in the death of Donta Williams.

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A man convicted of killing his best friend was sentenced Monday to two life terms plus 15 years, the maximum penalty.

Leon Williams was in Suffolk Circuit Court to attend the hearing for Nathaniel McCoy, Jr., who was convicted of killing Williams’ brother, Donta.

“It’s been sad. You know, we’re going through holidays. My brother’s not there… Donta was goofy. Donta was a funny guy. He would bring everybody together. He was about peace,” Williams said.

Donta’s death was anything but peaceful, according to prosecutors, who called it “horrific” and “vile.” A jury convicted McCoy of murder earlier this year. Tremayne Johnson and Kyle Purvis entered pleas in the 2015 death.

Williams suffered nearly 20 blows to the head, and the murder weapons — a hammer and a wire hand saw — broke during the attack, prosecutors said.

In an unusual turn of events, McCoy called a character witness to the stand, against the advice of his attorney. That witness said she couldn’t describe McCoy’s character and didn’t know him personally. McCoy apologized to the victim’s family, called Donta his “best friend,” and described the ways his death affected him.

“It’s all lies. It’s all lies just to save himself,” Williams said.

Bishop Spencer Riddick is a friend of the Williams family, who also knew McCoy from church.

“It’s very heart wrenching because I would have never thought that he would have become this,” Riddick said.

The judge said McCoy wasn’t just mixed up with the wrong crowd as the defendant claimed, he was a part of the wrong crowd.

“You were it,” he said, calling the crime “one of the most vicious, brutal attacks this court has seen.”

Defense attorney Mike Rosenberg said he was not surprised by the judge’s decision.

“It very rarely happens that a judge will reduce a jury verdict. We tried, and the judge gave what the jury recommended and here we are,” he said.

Purvis, who pleaded guilty to first degree murder, is serving life plus 10 years. Johnson, who entered a second degree murder plea, only acknowledging enough evidence to convict him, may be sentenced this week. McCoy plans to appeal.