MANASSAS, VA. (CN) – A retired police officer, appearing at the sentencing hearing of his son, who has been convicted of capitol murder, pleaded for his son to be “forgiven” and sentenced to life in prison rather than his being put to death.
Ronald Williams Hamilton was convicted last month for the Feb. 27, 2016, killings of his wife, Crystal Hamilton, 29, and Prince William Police Officer Ashley Guindon, 28, a rookie on her first shift for the department.
Hamilton was also convicted of other charges, including attempted murder in the shootings of two other officers, David McKeown and Jesse Hempen. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Hamilton’s father, also named Ronald, was the final witness called by defense attorneys who have been trying for two weeks to save the life of the convicted murderer in Prince William County Circuit Court.
“What my son did was wrong,” said the elder Hamilton, a retired Charleston, South Carolina police officer. “Some time, we have to reach back and forgive.”
During more than an hour on the witness stand, the 65-year-old Hamilton described his troubled relationship with his son.
At one point, the father said, he was profiled by the Post and Courier, a Charleston newspaper, but spoke only of his wife and daughter. But he never mentioned his only son, the child of a woman with whom he was having an affair.
After the article was published, the elder Hamilton saw his son, still a minor, less often. “I left my son behind,” he admitted.
In a video shown to the jury from Thanksgiving 2013, the younger Hamilton praised his mother. “The woman raised me, not a man,” he said. Then, he walked over to his wife, Crystal, dropped to one knee and gave her a ring. “If I had the opportunity,” he said, “I would marry her 100 times over.”
Three years later, he would murder her. Officers had answered the domestic violence call at Hamilton’s residence in Woodbridge, Virginia, a suburb of the Washington D.C., area. Hamilton, who had already shot Crystal Hamilton in the head with a handgun, fired at the officers called to the scene with an AK-47.
More officers rushed to the residence, and the couple’s son, Tyriq Hamilton, then 11, ran out of the house. In opening arguments, one of the prosecutors told the jury that the boy had been “left to his fate by his father.”
But in testimony last week, Hamilton’s sister, Cassandra Williams, also a police officer with the Summerville, S.C., Police Department, said that after her brother shot the police officers, he immediately called her. When Williams heard what had happened, she told her brother to “get him [Tyriq] out of the house right now.”
She also testified that her brother wanted to kill himself, but she talked him into giving himself up.
Hamilton had been a sergeant in the Army, working at the Pentagon following a deployment to Iraq. Throughout the past two weeks, educators, mentors and fellow soldiers have taken the stand and described Hamilton’s start as an at-risk youth and, early on, a soldier in need of discipline. But as time passed, they began to think of him as a brother and a good soldier who never forgot to say thank you.
But the stress that wartime deployments put on the military has also been a recurring theme. In court this morning, David Bendernagel, a mitigation specialist for the Capital Defender Office, testified that not long after the incident, he went to the shooting scene and found two bottles of prescription pills on the seat of Hamilton’s vehicle. Both bottles contained antidepressants — Wellbutrin and Trazadone.