PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A man accused in the death of a Portsmouth toddler was found not guilty Thursday.
20-year-old Jerry Atkinson Jr. was arrested in the 2015 shooting that killed 18-month-old Dion Lofton Jr. He was facing 10 charges, including murder.
WAVY’s Erin Kelly reported that jury deliberations began Thursday morning. After about six hours, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all 10 counts.
“I’m sure this has been almost a surreal experience for him. It will probably take him a long time just like it will his family and everybody involved in this to really process what he’s been through. but all is well that ends well,” defense attorney Andrew Sacks said after the verdict.
Prosecutors argued Atkinson participated in a plan to rob Lofton’s mother with drugs and money, and the plan went awry. Dion Lofton Jr. was shot in the face and died at the home on Maple Avenue.
Atkinson took the stand Tuesday in his own defense, telling the jury he was on the porch and ran when he heard gunshots, and only later found out the baby died. He admitted he lied when he initially told police that he was not at the house where the shooting happened. Atkinson said he lied because he was scared.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the people who were victims of what did happen. We’re not rejoicing. We feel for them. It was a very, very tragic result for a number of people, but that doesn’t justify putting away an innocent man,” Sacks said.
The victim’s mother declined to comment on the verdict when reached by phone Thursday.
Anthony Holley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and several other charges last June. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.