For approximately half an ounce of marijuana, a 24-year-old is dead and 19-year-old Charles “Max” Caprino of Burke faces a charge of murder.
“It got way out of control, to a level it should not have gone to,” said a 19-year-old witness who testified at Caprino’s preliminary hearing Tuesday, March 6 in Fairfax County General District Court. Family and friends of both the victim and defendant filled the courtroom.
The witness testified that he and Orator “Jose” Wesley Hall, of Fairfax, met with Caprino on Old Blacksmith Road in Burke on the evening of Dec. 10, 2006, to “pick up some marijuana.”
“That’s what it was supposed to be,” he testified.
But after Caprino handed them the marijuana inside the 19-year-old’s Plymouth, Hall told Caprino to get out of the car without paying him for the drugs.
“[Caprino] looked at him, ‘are you … crazy?’ He gave me the same look,” the witness testified. “I guess [Caprino] took it the wrong way, that’s when he grabbed his piece [revolver].”
The three wrestled for the gun, and Caprino exited the car, shot two times and killed Hall, who had been sitting in the rear passenger seat, according to the 19-year-old’s testimony. Caprino fired a third shot at the 19-year-old but missed.
“C’mon buddy, we’ll get you some help. Hang in there, man, hang in there,” the witness said he told his friend, Hall, as he was dying.
The 19-year-old witness drove with Hall lying in car from Old Blacksmith Road to Old Keene Mill Road near the Glory Days restaurant, then called 911. When police arrived, they found Hall dead in the car in the restaurant parking lot, according to police.
Members of the Capital Area Region Fugitive Task Force and police arrested Caprino three days later in a Front Royal hotel room.
“This is a situation in which it appears to be a panic attack,” said Caprino’s defense attorney William B. Cummings. Caprino didn’t act with premeditation or malice and had no animosity for either of the victims, Cummings said, highlighting the struggle for the gun. “This is a panic situation, not murder. Perhaps manslaughter but not murder,” he said.
“This is an individual who got out of the car with a pistol when no one else had a weapon,” countered Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ian Rodway. “I don’t want to use the word execution, but it was a deliberate act.”
A preliminary hearing calls for the prosecution to present enough evidence for a judge to allow the case to move forward, but the defense does not present its case at that time.
Judge Thomas E. Gallahue certified the murder case to a Fairfax County Circuit Court grand jury, one of the initial steps prosecuting felony cases.