MANASSAS, Va. (CN) – In its third day of deliberations, a jury deadlocked over whether 34-year-old Ronald Hamilton should get the death penalty for the murders of his wife, Crystal Hamilton, and a police officer, Ashley Guindon.
As a result, Prince William County Court Judge Steven Smith sentenced Hamilton to life in prison without possibility of parole.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Smith rejected arguments from prosecutors that the jury should be given the Allen charge, an instruction that would have encouraged them to continue deliberating until reaching a verdict.
Smith later told those gathered in the courtroom that when he reviewed the jurors’ verdict sheets, he found that all 12 agreed Hamilton should be given life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murder of Guindon, 28, a rookie police officer on her first shift.
In was on a second capital murder charge — the commission of two premeditated killings within a three-year period –that the jury deadlocked. Hamilton also received a life sentence for that charge.
The judge directed the jury to reconvene on punishment for the remaining charges. Prosecutors outlined the maximum sentences and asked that the jury give Hamilton “every minute of it.”
The jury later returned five additional life sentences, along with more than 90 years in confinement for the murder of Hamilton’s wife, the attempted murder of two other police officers, David McKeown and Jesse Hempen, and using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Hamilton, a staff sergeant in the Army, was convicted last month of multiple charges in connection with the Feb. 27, 2016, incident, which grew out of a domestic dispute. Hamilton had shot and killed Crystal Hamilton, 29, in the presence of the couple’s son, Tyriq, then 11. As officers were trying to get into the house, he fired at them with an AK-47. Guindon was killed. McKeown and Hempen were gravely injured.
After the trial, Hamilton’s attorney, Edward Ungvarsky, sympathized with the victims’ families. “It’s a horrible thing to lose someone. It’s a horrible thing to lose people who are young and have promise.”
But, he said, this verdict shows a change in how Virginians view the death penalty. “We haven’t had a death penalty in this state imposed by a jury since 2011,” he said. “This verdict by these jurors is fully consistent with that trend.”