Defendant charged in baby’s shooting death testifies in Portsmouth trial

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A man charged in the death of a baby boy took the stand in his own defense Tuesday.

Defendant Jerry Atkinson Jr. admitted he lied when he initially told police in an interview that he was not at the house on Maple Avenue, where 18-month-old Dion Lofton Jr. was shot to death in 2015.

Atkinson lied because was scared, he said.

Atkinson told the jury Tuesday that he is telling the truth now, and that the night the baby died, he went to the house with co-defendant Anthony Holley and found co-defendant Marquis Hinton there. Holley was going to buy marijuana, Atkinson said. Holley and Hinton went inside the home while Atkinson stayed on the porch, then he heard gunshots and ran, according to the defendant’s testimony.

Anthony Holley, left, and Marquis D. Hinton, right, were charged in the 2015 shooting death of 1-year-old Dion Lofton Jr. Images: Portsmouth Police Department.

Atkinson said he did not see what happened inside the house and only found out later that the victim died.

Before the defendant took the stand, the jury heard about two letters both the defense and prosecution stipulated were written by Hinton, who said Atkinson was not fully aware of the situation and thought they were just going to the house to buy marijuana the night of the shooting.

Prosecutors said Atkinson participated in a plan to rob with guns, even if they cannot say he fired a bullet that killed the victim. Rebuttal testimony is expected Wednesday and possibly closing arguments.

Holley pleaded guilty last June to first-degree murder and several other charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Hinton is serving 30 years behind bars for the crime. He pleaded guilty last August and was sentenced in October and is planning an appeal.