CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The man accused of shooting three of his family members, and killing two of them, has pleaded guilty.
WAVY’s Erin Kelly reports Zachary Toothman pleaded guilty Friday morning to the murder of his father Michael and brother Matthew and the attempted murder of his mother, as well as gun charges.
There was no plea agreement and the guilty plea was Toothman’s decision, he told the judge.
On a Sunday morning in August 2016, Toothman’s family thought he was starting a new semester at Virginia Tech soon, but months earlier, he had received an email from university officials telling him he was on academic suspension until spring. That’s according to documents released Friday detailing what would have been prosecutors’ evidence had Zachary gone to trial.
The paperwork said Zachary shot and killed his father and brother with the gun his father used as a Chesapeake police detective, then later said, “I am not going back to school.” Zachary then shot his mother, who played dead before taking the gun and getting help from a neighbor, according to the documents.
In an email sent months before the shooting, Zachary tells someone in the school’s ROTC program that he had suffered from depression and had contemplated suicide, but was working to get more help. He hadn’t told his parents about the suspension yet, the email said.
Following the shooting, Zachary told police his mother shot his brother and father before herself, according to the documents.
Asked about the guilty plea outside court, special prosecutor Paul Ebert said, “It saves everybody a lot of time, a lot of heartache. It’s a tragic case, like all of these and you know, hopefully, justice will be served.”
Sentencing has been set for Nov. 20. Toothman faces a maximum of life in prison for the murders, up to 10 years for attempted murder and 12 years for gun charges.