Persistence of Memory

Persistence of Memory

Suspect awaits trial in a bizarre triple shooting last April.

A frantic call arrived at 911 dispatch office at 7:59 p.m. on April 2, 2006. The voice on the line said that three men had been shot, and that emergency help was needed right away. The man on the line was extremely agitated, sometimes mumbling incoherently. His tone of voice and volume suggested obvious distress, and the transcript of the call illustrates the grave nature of what had just occurred.

"Ambulance! Please! Right away," the man said, according to the transcript. "Knock down the door. My grandson done shot us all."

The emergency-response team arrived on the fifth floor of Old Towne West Apartments on South Columbus Street to find a particularly grisly crime scene. A man later identified as Lee Timmons, 50, was slumped over on the bed. Investigators quickly realized that he had been shot in the back of the head and was already dead. They found Henry Carrington, 57, in the bedroom laying across his bed. A telephone covered in blood was lying in a pool of blood next to him. Tobias Carrington, 19, was laying at the foot of the bed with a gunshot wound to the side of his head.

"Henry Carrington is a longtime crack cocaine addict, and any excited utterances he made are suspect because of his drug addiction," wrote defense attorney David Kiyonaga in a motion to oppose admission of the transcript into evidence for a future trial. "On the day the shooting occurred, Henry Carrington and his friend, Mr. Timmons (shot dead), may have been smoking crack cocaine and marijuana. Therefore, any excited utterances that Henry Carrington made over the telephone must be treated with great scrutiny and caution."

The judge later agreed that prosecutors could admit the transcript of the April 2, 2006 call into evidence, which they identified as "Exhibit 1." In the call, and in a later interview with investigating detectives, Henry Carrington identified his 19-year-old grandson as the shooter in the bizarre triple shooting that shocked the Old Towne West community last year. Now, after more than a year of waiting, the case is headed to trial — with the grandfather ready to testify against his own grandson. But not before another delay.

"Late last week, the primary detective in the case was moving evidence from the property room to my office," said Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel. "At the time, he became aware of the fact that there had been a gunshot residue test taken on a person seen leaving the building that night."

For some reason, the kit including the sample and its documentation was never sent to the laboratory for testing — apparently the result of a lack of communication between various detectives working the case. Meanwhile, the evidence could become a crucial part of the case as Kiyonaga prepares a defense in which his client Tobias Carrington plans to deny shooting his grandfather and his friend before turning the gun on himself.

"What you are saying is that someone else shot him," asked Circuit Court Judge Lisa Kemler during a brief pre-trial hearing earlier this week.

"Yes, that’s what we are saying" responded Kiyonaga. "We have forensic evidence that will show someone else was in the apartment."

THE LAST-MINUTE discovery of the evidence kit produced yet another holdup in scheduling a trial date, which had previously been slated for this week. Until another date is set, both sides have more time to prepare for a case that Judge Kemler called "an unusual situation." Tobias Carrington says that he doesn’t remember the event, which prosecutors admit is reasonable considering the traumatic injury to the head that he sustained on the night in question. Yet the details of what kind of expert testimony might be admissible in the case remains an open question.

"The defendant is charged with a bizarre crime — seemingly out of the blue he shot his grandfather (who he was very close to), shot his grandfather’s friend and then attempted suicide by shooting himself on the top of the head (a very unusual method of suicide)," Kiyonaga wrote in a memorandum dated April 8. "This case involves gunshots, power residue, DNA, blood and gore splatter, and a gunshot to the top of the defendant’s head that produced the splatter against the ceiling and wall of the bedroom."

The judge decided to rule on some of the issues at a later date, and she instructed both sides to come up with a time to reschedule all their competing experts. When the hour-long hearing was over, Tobias Carrington limped slowly out of the courtroom bearing a long gash on his scalp clearly visible from the back of Courtroom 2. As the case drags on past the anniversary of the crime — including the suspects 20th birthday, which he spent in jail awaiting trial — the discovery of more evidence adds yet another setback.

"The delays are something that was agreed to by the defense," said Sengel after the hearing was over. "He said that he wanted a substantial amount of time to prepare the case."