Man convicted of murdering soldier

Published 10:18 pm Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nobody disagrees that Timothy Wayne Sanders and Matthew Stephenson Jr. fought several times on the night of Sept. 4, 2009.

Sanders himself admitted he was angry at Stephenson for punching him and that he retrieved his gun with the intention of shooting him.

What is still at issue is how a disagreement over the hometown of basketball player Michael Jordan and a fight over using the computer to get on MySpace escalated to first-degree murder.

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Timothy Wayne Sanders was found guilty Thursday by Judge Westbrook J. Parker of first-degree murder, shoot/stab in the commission of a felony, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and maliciously discharging a firearm in an occupied building.

Sanders murdered Stephenson, 41, a soldier in the U.S. Army, in a Nansemond Pointe Drive home at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend.

Both Sanders and Stephenson, along with others, were in the home drinking that night, according to witness testimony. Throughout the night, Sanders and Stephenson quarreled, witnesses said. Sanders says they fought over using the computer to try to access a MySpace page; Lieu Thompson, who lived in the home, said the men disagreed over the hometown of basketball player Michael Jordan.

Sanders said he became angry when Stephenson hit him with his fist and jabbed him in the eye.

Drunk and furious, Sanders left the house, went to his van, retrieved a 9-mm semi-automatic Feg pistol, came back into the house and shot Stephenson four times — once each in the face, right arm, chest and abdomen.

According to assistant chief medical examiner Wendy Gunther, the shots to the chest and abdomen were the fatal shots. One went directly through his heart. The other “shattered” his left kidney, she said.

Sanders contended in court that he was too inebriated to form intent, which is required by law for first-degree murder.

“I intended to shoot Mr. Matthew,” Sanders said during his testimony. “I did not intend to kill him, though.”

Prosecutor Will Jamerson, however, disagreed that Sanders did not intend to kill Stephenson, pointing out that he left the house, went to his van, retrieved the weapon and came back.

“You did exactly what you wanted to do,” Jamerson said.

According to Sanders’ own testimony, two thoughts came into his head after the fight — he could either hit him with a nearby liquor bottle, or he could go get his gun.

“I was really, really angry,” Sanders said. “I just felt like I had lost my self-control.”

Parker agreed with Jamerson.

“He knew what he was doing,” Judge Parker said. “He intended to shoot him.”

Parker found Sanders guilty of all four charges and ordered a pre-sentence report and victim impact statement. Sanders will appear in court again June 14.