Man pleads guilty in Capron attack

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

COURTLAND – Defonté Lamont Freeman, the last of three defendants facing charges from a 2007 home invasion in Capron and the violent attack on the couple that lived there, pleaded guilty to four felony charges Thursday in Southampton Circuit Court.

Freeman, 19, pleaded guilty to breaking and entering with a deadly weapon, aggravated malicious wounding, robbery, and forced sodomy. Prosecutors dropped eight other charges against Freeman.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for March 19 at 9:30 a.m. Freeman could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Freeman walked into the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Carl Edward Eason Jr. wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit with “regional jail” emblazoned on the back. As he strode to his seat, he smiled at family members and raised his cuffed hands into the air and flashed a peace sign at them three times.

Eason asked Freeman several questions to make sure the defendant understood the consequences of entering the guilty pleas, among them that he was waiving his right to a jury trial. Freeman did not ask the judge any questions and did not make any statements.

Eric Cooke, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Southampton County, said Freeman was the last of three defendants to be charged in the brutal home invasion and subsequent attack of its two occupants on Aug. 2, 2007.

Freeman testified for the prosecution at the trial of Wayne Arkese Turner in July. Turner, 18, was convicted of 10 felonies and sentenced in August to 148 years in prison. Jamar Lamont Jones, 21, was convicted of eight felonies in October and will be sentenced on Feb. 5. Cooke said Freeman was prepared to testify at Jones’ trial as well.

Details surrounding the attack were revealed during Turner’s trial in July.

During that trial, Freeman and two other men testified that Turner had invited them to ride along with him late in the evening of Aug. 1 “to pick up some money.”

Two of the witnesses testified that they didn’t know Turner intended to rob the residents of the home on Friday Artis Road in Capron. But Freeman said he “kinda figured” the five men assembled by Turner would be going out to commit a robbery, so he went inside his grandmother’s Oak Trail apartment to get a bandana he could use for a mask.

Testimony revealed that Turner drove the five men around for a couple of hours, drinking wine and smoking marijuana, and that Turner spent much of the time on a mobile phone trying to get the address of the man whom he believed owed him money.

The male victim testified that Turner had called earlier in the evening, demanding $15 from a $20 crack cocaine purchase. He said he told Turner that he had paid all but $5 from the $20 purchase he had made for his mother, and that he wouldn’t be able to pay the remainder that day.

“He told me, ‘If I come over there, somebody’s gonna get hurt,’” the male victim testified.

Sometime after midnight, Turner parked up the street from the victims’ house. Turner, Freeman and Jones went to the house, leaving two other men — Kenneth Sykes and Lamare Delbridge — with the car.

Freeman, Sykes and Delbridge all testified that Turner was carrying a handgun as he ran toward the house. They also confirmed the victims’ testimony that the men who broke into the home had been wearing bandanas and hoodies to hide their identities.

The male victim, however, said he recognized Turner’s voice as Turner repeatedly demanded money. The three attackers had stormed the couple’s bedroom, pistol-whipping both the man and his fiancé and knocking them both to the floor.

As one man began to rape the woman, two others — Turner and Freeman, according to Freeman’s testimony — began beating the man. First, he was pistol-whipped and kicked, then a metal fan was thrown at him, and finally a television was dropped on his head.

Temporarily breaking off his attack on the man, Turner intervened in the rape of the woman, placing a gun to her left temple and telling her she had better comply, Freeman said in court.

During the 10- to 15-minute ordeal, Freeman briefly left to rip the phone from its connection with the wall.

Inside the bedroom, he had seen a pocketbook on top of the dresser. Later, he said, back in the car, Turner looked through the purse and offered the other men the woman’s credit cards. They declined. Turner had found only $2.40 in cash. As they crossed the bridge over the Nottoway River on Meherrin Road, Freeman said, Turner rolled down his window and tossed the purse into the river.

Sykes and Delbridge said Freeman, Turner and Jones returned to the car laughing and full of bravado after the attack.

In comments to Eason, Frederick Schick, Freeman’s attorney, told the judge that his client had been cooperative with authorities since his arrest, and that his testimony was “instrumental” at the Turner trial. Cooke later agreed with Schick’s comments.

Schick declined to comment on the case after the hearing.

Several members of Freeman’s family also attended the hearing. Referring to the forced sodomy charge, Dolly Freeman-Westbrook, Freeman’s mother, said “I want to make one thing clear. He did not do that. He pleaded guilty to it because he was there.”

Sharod Woodley, Freeman’s brother, said Freeman has two daughters, ages 1 and 2.

“He’s got a family, he’s got kids,” said Woodley. “Everybody thinks he needs to come home as soon as possible.”