Man gets 20 years for murder

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, February 23, 2017

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday for his role in a 2015 murder.

Tremayne La’ron Johnson, 27, invoked religion in a speech following the sentencing hearing to his family, several members of which were seated behind him.

“I want to encourage your hearts. I want to encourage your minds,” he said. “Despite what sentence has been imposed on me today, God is still God. He still sits on the throne. My victory in God is still certain.”

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Johnson was sentenced to an active sentence of 20 years for the murder of 22-year-old Donta Williams.

According to testimony, Johnson and two co-defendants, Kyle Purvis and Nathaniel Charles McCoy Jr., lured Williams at night onto a pedestrian bridge over Lake Mathews in North Suffolk on Jan. 20, near the Department of Defense complex off Lakeview Parkway.

Williams was beat with a hammer and choked with a handsaw before his body was pushed into the water, according to testimony. His body was not found until almost seven weeks later.

In statements and testimony, Johnson has distanced himself from the fatal injuries. He said he only hit Williams once, with his fist, and cried for the other two to stop when the beating got so brutal.

He also was the first to come forward about what happened to Williams and was willing to testify against his co-defendants. He ultimately testified against McCoy.

“The commonwealth found his information to be truthful and accurate,” prosecutor Matthew Glassman said Thursday. “He withstood a grueling cross-examination.”

But other factors were that he knew about the plan beforehand and did not come forward afterward until after Williams’ body had been found — an agonizing month and a half for the Portsmouth man’s family.

“He sat in the lake for nearly six weeks until he was found, discarded like a piece of trash,” Glassman said.

Johnson testified Thursday that he ultimately decided to do what was right.

“I thought if it were me or a member of my family, I would want somebody to speak up and tell the truth,” he said. “You can’t run forever from mistakes.”

Two people testified on Johnson’s behalf during Thursday’s hearing.

“Even though my son Tremayne did not commit the murder, he was still in the presence of the murder and aware of the murder,” said his mother, Emma Waters. “His whole inner person has changed. He has told me repeatedly, ‘Mom, I wish I would have listened to you.’”

Lorraine Skeeter also testified about Johnson’s care for her son in 2011 when he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Johnson worked as a home health aide, and Skeeter’s son was one of his clients.

Glassman argued for an active sentence of 20 years.

“I think it’s appropriate when you consider the totality of the circumstances,” he said.

Johnson’s defense attorney, Fred Taylor, said Thursday’s hearing represented closure in many forms. Johnson is the last of the three to be sentenced. McCoy was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years. Purvis was sentenced to life plus 10 years.

“There is absolutely nothing Tremayne can say that we can justify and attempt to defend that will undo this senseless tragedy,” Taylor said, adding that he was on the same page as the prosecutors when it comes to the sentence.

Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Sandwich Jr. handed down the 20-year sentence with 35 years suspended.

“I’ve taken into consideration your cooperation and everything you did in this particular case,” Sandwich said. “You’re going to pay a penalty for your actions.”

Sandwich also sentenced Johnson to 30 years of supervised probation following his release and ordered that he be incarcerated separately from McCoy and Purvis.