Quick arrests in murder case

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The mother of one of two suspects speedily arrested in Monday’s shooting death of an 82-year-old furniture merchant believes her son is innocent of the crime.

Arrested late Monday night, Leon Jerome Hayes, 33, and Naomi Nichelle Lambert, 22, were each charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, attempted armed robbery and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.



They were denied bond during their first scheduled court appearance in General District Court on Tuesday morning.

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According to court documents, prosecutors will allege Hayes and Lambert killed Donald Carter “willingly, deliberately and with premeditation,” outside his store in the 100 block of East Washington Street, Carter’s Quality Furniture.

The medical examiner has confirmed Carter died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Emergency dispatchers called rescue personnel to the scene of an unresponsive man at 1:12 a.m. Monday, and Carter was pronounced dead at Sentara Obici Hospital at 1:46 a.m.

Based on interviews, prosecutors believe Hayes and Lambert planned the crime and were present during the attempted robbery.

His mother, Deloris Hayes, says Leon Hayes is innocent. “I want to say my son wasn’t perfect. He has made mistakes. He did things, but not murder,” she said Tuesday at her St. James Avenue home. “I’m concerned, I love him. All I want is a fair trial for my baby. (And) I need somebody to help me get a lawyer.”

Delores Hayes added that she doesn’t believe her son is capable of murder. “I don’t believe he did this,” she said.

Brittany Davis, a niece of Leon Hayes, said she was at the St. James Avenue residence just after 9 a.m. Monday when police first visited. They took Naomi Lambert away for three hours of questioning and then released her, she said.



Early Monday afternoon, according to Davis, Leon Hayes turned himself in to police. Law enforcement returned to search the house at about 9 p.m., she added.

“I was upstairs lying on my bed,” Deloris Hayes said. “They told me just stay there and let them see my hands.

“They searched the house for a good hour and a half — they just went through it. I didn’t see them take anything, but I stayed upstairs, right on the bed.”

According to Davis, police then arrested Lambert, who had returned to the house after her earlier questioning. Davis said Lambert has two children by her other uncle and had been staying at the house.

Meanwhile, according to court records, Hayes and Lambert have both had several prior brushes with the law.

In June 2000, Hayes was incarcerated for felony unlawful wounding. Under a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge after originally being charged with causing bodily injury with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill.

He was sentenced to five years in jail with four years and two months suspended. Nine months later, the suspension was revoked for bad behavior and probation violations, and Hayes received a new sentence.

After an incident in early 2005, Hayes was incarcerated for threatening to bomb, burn or destroy, and assault and battery against a family member, while a burglary charge was dismissed. For both sentences, the suspended portions were later revoked for violations.

More recently, Lambert was charged with assault and battery of a law enforcement officer, attempting to burn or destroy an occupied dwelling and obstruction of justice. She was sentenced to 12 months in Western Tidewater Regional Jail with six months suspended after pleading guilty in a deal with prosecutors to arson of personal property less than $200 and misdemeanor assault and battery.

Brett Carter — Donald Carter’s nephew — praised the quick work of Suffolk Police. “We are happy that the police have done such a thorough job,” he said. “We are very appreciative of our police department.”

Told of Deloris Hayes’ faith in the innocence of her son, the victim’s brother, David Carter, said, “I feel sorry for the parents of this man, and I’m sure that they love their children just as we love ours.”