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Skipwith man to spend 70 years in prison for murder

South Boston News
Lester / February 28, 2018
A Skipwith man will spend the next 70 years in prison for the fatal shootings of Terrance Terrell Coleman and his two dogs in January 2016.

Quashawn Jamal Lester was sentenced Friday to 178 years in prison, with all but 70 years suspended. Presiding at the sentencing hearing was Mecklenburg County Circuit Judge Leslie Osborn.

In August, after more than a day of trial, Lester entered an Alford Plea to one count of first degree murder, one count of armed burglary and one count of burglary, one count of robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, first offense, one count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony second offense, and one count of animal cruelty.

An Alford plea is an admission by the defendant that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction. Lester was subsequently found guilty by the judge.

His sentencing was delayed several months while defense attorney Vaughn Jones sought to have Lester evaluated by a forensic psychologist.

At Friday’s hearing, Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Nash asked Osborn to hand down a sentence that “quantified justice.” He asked for Lester’s sentence to be life plus 158 years, which he said was justified by the horrific nature of the crime.

Nash summarized the events that resulted in the death of Coleman of Boydton during the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2016, as Lester and two associates — Jaquan Hickman and Dakerie Daniels — were in search of money.

Arriving at Coleman’s house on Redlawn Road in Boydton, Nash said Hickman and Lester “busted down the door” while Daniels waited in the getaway car. Lester held Coleman at gunpoint, so Hickman could search the house for cash.

When no money was found, Lester shot Coleman’s dog and then Lester. “Since they couldn’t find money, they stole electronics, liquor and a pit bull puppy from the house,” Nash explained, adding, “A few days later, Lester and Daniels drove to an isolated area and killed the 12-week old puppy.”

On Friday, Nash replayed two taped excerpts of conversations between Lester and a confidential informant, first aired at Lester’s trial. During the conversation, Lester, while laughing, recounts shooting Coleman and the victim’s two dogs.

Jones, Lester’s lawyer, portrayed his client as a victim of parental abuse born from neglect by his drug addict mother and imprisoned father, suggesting this caused uncontrollable anger in Lester which led him to shoot and kill Coleman and his dogs.

While there was no corroborating testimony at sentencing, Jones claimed that Lester had been physically and sexually abused by the time he was 15 years of age. He offered testimony from lawyer and forensic psychologist Dr. Sharon Kelly — not to engender sympathy for Lester, but as proof that Lester’s childhood neglect and abuse impacted his brain and emotional development, leaving him with “anger management issues” exacerbated by a chronic abuse of drugs and alcohol.

He described Lester as a victim of a broken system, an “intelligent person with medical and mental maladies” that were untreated.

Despite these factors, Kelly said Lester had a “functional and rational understanding” of the facts and circumstances surrounding his case, was fully capable of assisting in the defense of the charges against him but could benefit from anger management and substance abuse counseling. She also felt that with a structured environment and proper counseling the chance that he would repeat his crimes were low.

These factors as well as a “dearth of criminal history,” Jones said, supported imposition of a prison sentence of 30 years. “He’d be 54 [years old] when released and the chance of recidivism is very low, according to Kelly.”

Over ongoing defense objections, Nash elicited testimony from Kelly that showed a different Lester — a person whose conduct was indicative of psychopathy, marked by low fear, poor impulse control, and meanness or lack of empathy.

“Mr. Lester says he’s depressed because he can’t see his kids,” Nash said to the judge before remarking, “the Colemans can’t see their son ever again.”

Nash described Lester as “mean, cold, vile, and evil” and asked Osborn to hand down an appropriate sentence.

Speaking to the Coleman family, Osborn said, “If I could give three life sentences and bring your son back, I would, but I can’t.” Looking at Lester and his attorney, Osborn said the fact that Lester enlisted and was honorably discharged from the Army “is evidence that [Lester] overcame his childhood limits.” He called Lester’s conduct “the epitome of evil.”

In addition to his sentence, Lester must have no contact with the Coleman family and make restitution of $12,608.54.

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