Guilty plea likely in murder

Published 7:32 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Agreement would avoid death penalty trial

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Accused Rushmere double homicide suspect Kareem Mitchell plans to plead guilty to first degree murder and other charges in exchange for the Commonwealth not to seek the death penalty, according to his attorney, Jennifer Stanton.

Mitchell appeared in Isle of Wight County General District Court April 26 to formally waive his right to a preliminary hearing. 

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Mitchell, along with co-defendant Richard Alexander Holmes, is charged in the murders of Nancy Starnes and her son, Kenneth Starnes, in their Ennisdale Drive home last September. 

A third co-defendant, Sharon Galvin, is charged with possession of and intent to sell stolen property and obstruction. A juvenile who was living in her home at the time was charged with similar crimes. 

Galvin also waived her right to a preliminary hearing Thursday. 

The cases against Mitchell, Holmes and Galvin were certified to a May 11 grand jury. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Stanton, who represents capital murder suspects in southeastern Virginia, said she’s never seen a client in her 30 years of practice who was as remorseful as Mitchell.

“To say he’s remorseful is an understatement,” she said. 

Last year, Mitchell had provided investigators with a detailed account of the events that led to the murder of the Starneses, as well as his own actions during the crime. In his statement, the suspect said he “just panicked” and fired his gun.  

The preliminary hearing for Holmes proceeded as scheduled Thursday. 

Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s investigator Donald Edwards described going through the Starnes’ house in the aftermath of the shootings, and how kitchen cabinets and dresser drawers were flung open and items were strewn on the floor. In the living room and a bedroom, it appeared as if other larger items were missing, as cords remained that were not connected to anything, said Edwards. 

A ladies purse was lying on a table, with items removed and strewn about, said Edwards. 

Edwards observed the bodies of Nancy and Kenneth in their respective bedrooms. 

He testified that the wooden casing around the front door of the residence was broken in pieces on the floor.  

Edwards said the gun cabinet in one of the bedrooms was empty. 

A few days later, on Sept. 27, Edwards was called to 14333 Stonehouse Lane where Mitchell, Holmes and Galvin were said to reside. 

In an earlier report provided by the Sheriff’s Office, deputies had been knocking on doors in the area after receiving a tip concerning two black males walking along Bradby Lane at around 4:30 a.m. on the day of the murders. 

It was there that Edwards recognized an item that had been listed as missing in another burglary in the area. 

That item was confirmed by the victim, Edwards said. 

Edwards said a second search warrant was obtained and items from the Starnes residence was found in the Stonehouse Lane home, including a computer belonging to Kenneth Starnes. 

Edwards said the computer was identified as Starnes’ because it had his photo on the screen. 

Other items included what Edwards described as “long guns,” such as a rifle and shotgun, which were hidden in a compartment under the back porch and concealed under a green carpet. 

While searching the Stonehouse Lane home, Edwards said a 40-caliber Glock handgun was found hidden behind a dresser door, as well as a revolver and two ammunition magazines. 

A ballistics report was given to Judge Parker Councill. 

Holmes’ attorney, Gregory Matthews, took issue with Isle of Wight County Deputy Steve Peed’s testimony concerning when Holmes was read his Miranda rights and whether Holmes was detained or arrested. 

In a later interview, Matthews said the time the Miranda rights were read could be significant later. 

Lt. Tommy Potter said he interviewed Holmes twice at the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office at 1:37 a.m. and again at 3:58 a.m.

During the first interview, Holmes was asked about being at the Starnes’ house and he mumbled, looked at the floor and shook his head in the affirmative, said Potter.

During that interview, Holmes said he and the co-defendant were walking down the road, that they were broke, saw the Starnes’ vehicles and viewed it as a “lick,” said Potter, referring to slang for an easy robbery. 

Potter said Holmes told him the incident was supposed to be a quick in and out and that he didn’t have a gun.

“He (Holmes) said he didn’t have the stomach to shoot anyone,” Potter said. 

In the second interview, Holmes did not indicate immediately he was there, but said he was there when “it” happened, said Potter. 

Matthews asked about “it” and Potter replied that “it” meant something that happened at the Ennisdale house. 

In a later interview, Matthews said he was not going to say whether or not his client knew what “it” was and that he denied nodding in the affirmative about the incident at the Ennisdale Drive home. 

Matthews asked that Holmes’ first degree murder charges be reduced to second degree but that motion was denied. Holmes’ three related gun charges, however, were not prosecuted.  {/mprestriction}