Two charged in murder

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pair lived near slaying victims’ home

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

“We got ’em,” Isle of Wight County Sheriff Mark Marshall proclaimed from a podium at a press conference this past week.

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office arrested Rushmere residents Kareem Jamar Mitchell, 29, and Richard Alexander Holmes, 19, for the murders of Nancy and Kenneth Starnes in their home, concluding an extensive five-day hunt for the suspects.

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Mitchell and Holmes were taken into custody early Thursday, Sept. 28, at their Stonehouse Lane residence, just about a mile away from the Starnes’ Ennisdale Drive home.

Nancy, 80, and Kenneth, 58, a mother and son, were discovered slain with multiple gunshot wounds in their home Saturday, Sept. 23, officials pinpointing their murders to have taken place sometime in the early morning the day before. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Law enforcement received a tip from a witness who claimed to have seen two black males walking along Bradby Lane at 4:30 a.m. on the day of the killings.

While knocking on doors on the nearby Stonehouse Lane, officers spotted what appeared to be an item that was reported stolen in the Rushmere area on the porch where Mitchell and Holmes were residing, according to a search warrant.

Snapping a picture of the object and confirming it with the individual who had reported it stolen, police obtained a search warrant for the house, which officers executed early Thursday morning, and where they uncovered hundreds of pieces of evidence, according to Marshall.

Mitchell was discovered hiding in a closet in the house beneath a pile of laundry when one of the search warrants was executed, according to the criminal complaint.

In the closet was a bag heavy with ammunition and an HP laptop, later determined to have belonged to Kenneth Starnes.

In plain sight in the bedroom of the house was a 32-inch Roku television, one of multiple items that had been missing from the Starnes’ house after the homicides.

In an interview with investigators, one suspect said he kicked in the door of the Starnes’ house.

The suspect then stated that as he approached the bedroom of Kenneth Starnes, he saw Kenneth reach for something and he fired his gun, according to the criminal complaint.

Kenneth let out a yell as he fell back from the shot, according to the complaint, and, upon seeing Kenneth lying on the floor, the suspect claims he ‘just panicked’ and fired his gun again.

The suspect then stated he heard Nancy calling out from her room, which was dark as he approached. He told investigators that he snapped, and fired twice.

The other suspect, meanwhile, stated that he was not the shooter, but looked down at the floor and shook his head ‘yes’ when asked if he had been in the house, according to the criminal complaint.

Three televisions and the laptop were seized from the Stonehouse Lane residence, along with multiple guns, which were also missing from the Starnes’ home.

Black clothing, facemasks, papers with gang terms were also taken, along with two empty pill bottles. belonging to Nancy Starnes.

Lt. Thomas Potter said he could not release any additional details about the nature of the gang terms at this time.

At the press conference Thursday afternoon, Marshall, emphasized the brutal nature of the killings, calling them “baffling.”

“The nature of that crime scene was gruesome and these people, they clearly wanted their victims dead,” Marshall said.

Investigators had not yet established a clear motive for the killers.

Two vehicles had been missing from the Starnes’ home, one of them, a Ford F150 registered to Kenneth Starnes, was discovered in the city of Hampton Thursday.

Nancy Starnes’ gold Chrysler minivan with handicap tags, was discovered this past Friday in Portsmouth.

It was still unclear how the vehicles had ended up where they were found, according to Potter.

A vehicle reported as stolen in Hampton was discovered at the Stonehouse Lane house, according to Marshall.

“We believe that these individuals were responsible for numerous other burglaries,” Marshall said.

Both have been charged with two counts of murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, two counts of use of a firearm in committing of a felony, burglary with intent to murder and grand larceny.

The individuals have not been charged with grand theft auto, according to Potter, as it wouldn’t have much effect on the final sentencing.

“At some point, you’re just charging people to be charging people,” said Potter.

More charges could still be added in the future however, he said.

“This is a very large and very complex investigation,” said Marshall.

The suspects have claimed that a third individual was involved in the crime. The sheriff’s office was still investigating the credibility of those statements, according to Potter.

Mitchell and Holmes are both convicted felons. Mitchell is listed on the Virginia Sex Offender registry, which includes a charge of breaking and entering and carnal knowledge of a child in 2008 in Isle of Wight County. Holmes’ offenses were non-violent, according to Potter.  {/mprestriction}