Gunman convicted of girlfriend’s murder

Published 11:36 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A man accused of killing his girlfriend by standing over her and firing a single gunshot into her head in December 2006 was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder.

Within moments after closing arguments wrapped up, Suffolk Circuit Court Judge Westbrook Parker found George Lavor Riddick III guilty of the murder of his 19-year-old girlfriend, Vogentina Stephens. He was also convicted for shooting Eddie Wilson, Stephens’s cousin who shared the couple’s Grace Street apartment, at the same time.

“It was premeditated, pure and simple,” said Parker, as more than a dozen armed deputies spread out around the courtroom. They later escorted the families out of the building.

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Riddick, wearing a yellow jumpsuit and shackles, was also found guilty of aggravated malicious wounding, discharging a firearm into an occupied building and two counts each of shoot/stab/cut or wound and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He will be sentenced on Jan. 29.

Stephens was killed at “contact range” – that is, the barrel of the gun was being pressed into the side of her head when it was fired – while she was lying on her bed, according to testimony from police and forensics and ballistics experts.

The hot gas, which is emitted from a gun’s muzzle when it’s being fired, was visible underneath Stephens’s skin during the autopsy, said Dr. Wendy Gunther, who works in the state medical examiner’s office in Norfolk. That is indicative of a contact wound, she said.

“She would have been instantly comatose,” she added.

The bullet was found underneath Stephens’s bed, with holes in the mattress and box spring showing the path the bullet took after hitting Stephens, police said.

“This was as up close and personal as you can get,” said prosecutor Will Jamerson. “(This was) gun on flesh … (and) pull trigger.”

After shooting his girlfriend, Riddick walked to the doorway of Wilson’s bedroom and shot him, said prosecutor Jim Wiseman. Wilson, who wears hearing aids in both ears, testified that he woke up and lunged at Riddick after realizing he was covered with blood.

He was shot five times – in the head, chest, arm and temple – and still has three bullets in his body. Wilson testified that he has suffered memory loss, sleep deprivation, and nerve damage to his face since the shooting.

According to witnesses’ testimony, Riddick and Stephens had been arguing in the hours leading up to the shooting. Earlier that night, Riddick had gone up to Stephens’s workplace, Wendy’s on North Main Street, and gotten into a fist-fight with one of her co-workers, several witnesses said.

Riddick attorney, Michael Rosenberg, argued that the shootings were not premeditated, but rather happened in the heat of the moment of the argument.