Murder suspect headed for court

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Franklin murder suspect Charles Steinert is escorted from court in Franklin after a Wednesday preliminary hearing. A judge determined there's enough evidence to continue the case against Steinert, who is accused of killing his estranged wife.

FRANKLIN—Joseph Michael Wise knew something bad would happen when Charles Steinert stopped at the home of his estranged wife, Tammy Jo, on June 12.

“Once he approached the deck and said he wanted to see Tammy, I said, ‘You can’t see Tammy,’ ” Wise, who is Mrs. Steinert’s uncle, testified in a court hearing Wednesday. “Chuck said, ‘I don’t think so.’ Then he drew the gun and shot me.”

Charles Steinert is then accused of going into the Franklin home and allegedly shooting his 37-year-old wife in the head and killing her.

Judge Alfreda Talton-Harris determined during a Wednesday preliminary hearing in Franklin that there is enough evidence for the murder case against Steinert to continue in Southampton County Circuit Court. He was returned to Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk and faces life in prison.

Virginia State Police said Steinert arrived at his wife’s home at 200 Southampton Road with a revolver. Detectives believe after allegedly shooting Wise, Steinert entered the home and chased two teenage girls and his wife into a bedroom.

The 37-year-old then allegedly forced his way into the bedroom, shot his wife and barricaded himself in the house, holding the girls hostage. After a standoff with police, Steinert released the girls unharmed four hours later. He then surrendered.

Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, originally set for Aug. 18, was delayed so Steinert could go undergo a psychiatric evaluation. It was determined he is competent to stand trial, said Southampton County Commonwealth Attorney Eric Cooke.

Wise testified that at about 8:30 a.m. that day, he went to the home of his niece, Tammy Jo Steinert, to “hand over” the Steinerts’ son, Jonathan, to Charles Steinert for visitation. Wise videotaped the exchange.

“I recorded drop-offs and handoffs for a record, to make sure anything he said would be recorded,” he said.

Wise was still at the home when Steinert returned between noon and 1 p.m.

“I walked on the deck because I thought he was bringing Jonathan back,” Wise told the court. “He said ‘I want to see Tammy.’ He had a bag over his shoulder and pulled out a revolver. I rushed him and he shot me.”

The 46-year-old Courtland man made it to a neighbor’s home and was flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he underwent surgery and remained for two weeks.

State Police hostage negotiator Louis Dooley testified about speaking to Steinert over the phone during the standoff.

“He told me he wouldn’t hurt the girls, and I convinced him to let the girls out,” Dooley told the court. “After the girls were released, I tried to convince him to come out before something bad happened. He didn’t want to talk about his wife, but I told him to.”

That’s when Charles Steinert allegedly told Dooley, “I just shot and killed my son’s mother. How am I supposed to make that right.”

After Steinert surrendered, Tammy Jo Steinert was found inside the home.

Dooley said that during the telephone conversations Steinert spoke in a rational manner, yet was very excited and cried.

“He wanted everybody to hear his side of the story and said on several occasions he felt he had no choice,” Dooley said.