Killer gets 15 years in prison
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Aug 12, 2014, 15:40
CHESTERFIELD — A 20-year-old Hopewell man will serve 15 years in prison for shooting and killing a Virginia State University student last year.
Brian Wesley Williams Jr. pleaded guilty in Chesterfield Circuit Court on Thursday, Aug. 7, to the second-degree murder of Eric N. Wilkins Jr. and the use of a firearm in a felony.
Under the conditions with the plea agreement, the original charge of first-degree murder, which is punishable by up to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years, was amended to second-degree murder, which carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years.
For both charges, Williams was sentenced to a total of 43 years in prison with 28 years suspended for the rest of his life. He gave up his right for sentence modification, and will be placed on indefinite supervised probation upon his release.
Jessica Thomas, Eric’s mother, spoke on behalf of Eric’s family and said that 15 years is a fair punishment for Williams.
“I’m satisfied with that outcome,” Thomas said, fighting back tears.
Although she was crushed by the loss of her only son, Thomas said that she believes Williams had not intended to shoot Wilkins when he fired the weapon.
After receiving his sentencing, Williams stood with his hands crossed and said that he would “like to apologize to Eric’s family, my family and everybody in the courtroom,” before being taken back into custody.
On Nov. 21, 2013, Williams showed up to a party at an off-campus VSU student housing complex in southern Chesterfield with two other people, Lamar Perry and Khayan Curry, all three of whom were not VSU students, as stated in a summary of evidence by Kenneth Nickels, chief deputy Commonwealth’s attorney.
They were admitted into the party where they stayed for about 45 minutes before leaving.
As they were leaving, Curry was pushed down to the ground by another individual at the party. When Perry went to intervene, Wilkins, who had also been at the party, told him to let the two men fighting settle their differences. At this point, Williams, who was standing nearby, shot a firearm and hit Wilkins two times in the back, after which Wilkins walked down a set of stairs and died on the ground.
The three fled from the scene and, on the drive back to Hopewell, Williams was panicking and stated that he did something he should not have done.
Williams disposed of the firearm at a residence later that night, which detectives later found and matched to two bullets retrieved from the crime scene.
After the police investigation, authorities concluded that Williams fired the weapon, although he may not have intended to shoot Wilkins.
Defense attorney John Rockecharlie argued that Williams was caught in a heat-of-the-moment reaction when he saw his friend in an altercation.
“He did not intend to strike anyone, but he did,” Rockecharlie said, after claiming that the gun was handed to Williams by Curry on the way to the party.
Rockecharlie stated that Williams got caught up in a bad crowd, demonstrating no prior criminal history, and that Williams’s mother had warned him against hanging out with Curry and Perry when they first associated with each other.
Had the case gone to trial, Rockecharlie said he would have argued for manslaughter, and that the second-degree finding included in the plea agreement “is a reasonable finding.”
“You should have listened to your mother,” Judge William Shelton said to Williams after reading his sentence out loud.
Wilkins, 22, a Hopewell High School graduate, was expected to graduate from VSU with a major in Mass Communications in 2014. He had also partnered with some friends to create a record company, Paid In Full Records LLC, in 2011, according to an online obituary.