Three Indicted in Bonilla Case

Jeremy Aldrich -- October 18th, 2010

More than a month after a fatal shooting in Harrisonburg, Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst has issued direct indictments on three Harrisonburg men.  Randy Sanchez, Jr., Lamar D. Randolph and Ray C. Aaron have been charged with capital murder of a pregnant woman and other offenses for the death of Ledys Jeanneth (Janet) Bonilla-Zelaya on September 16.

A direct indictment means that no warrants were previously served on the three men, which is rare.

According to a release from the Harrisonburg Police Department, Sanchez, 26, is charged with capital murder, the use of a firearm in commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Randolph, 20, is charged with capital murder as a principal in the second degree, indicating he was present when the crime was committed but did not commit the crime himself. Aaron, 28, is charged with capital murder as an accessory before the fact, indicating he assisted or commanded the murder but was not present at the time.  According to Virginia code, both charges are equally severe as a regular capital murder charge.

Randolph was arrested on September 20 on a charge of obstructing justice, but it is not immediately clear if that charge relates to this crime.

The Daily News-Record reports that Garst will likely seek the death penalty for at least one of the suspects.

56 Responses to “Three Indicted in Bonilla Case”

  1. Ernie Didot says:

    Does anybody else find this case a bit peculiar? It has all been shrouded in vagueness. We didn’t seem to hear any investigative reporting apart from what the HPD and Commonwealth Attorney released. And now this “direct indictment”. Can anybody shed light on this?

    • Brooke says:

      I’m just guessing here, but perhaps they didn’t want to tip their hand on what the had on the suspects until they were ready to proceed with charges?

      • Dave Briggman says:

        Except, Brooke, they skip a “screening” process by removing the preliminary hearings from General District Court where cases, sometimes, often are dismissed for lack of probable cause.

        Perhaps not in this case, but direct indictments always make me a little nervous.

    • Online court records show that a Randy Sanchez, Jr. has the following convictions:

      DRIV ON SUSP LIC/FINE & COST
      51/35 SPD
      DRIV UNDER REVO/SUSPENSION
      PROBATION VIOLATION
      FAIL OBEY HIGHWAY LANE MARKING
      DESTRUCT PROP W/INTENT <$1000
      PROBATION VIOLATION

      He also has these charges which prosecution was DISCONTINUED in August of 2009:

      PRINCIPLE 2ND DEGREE – FIREARM: SHOOT FROM VEHICLES
      ATTEMPT – MURDER: 2ND DEGREE
      ACCESSORY – USE FIREARM IN FELONY 1ST OFF
      PRINCIPLE 2ND DEGREE – OCC BLDG: MALIC SHOOT/THROW

      He has this pending charge in General District Court:

      NONVIOL FELON POSS GUN W/I 10Y

      There is a Ray C Aaron who has a pending charge in General District Court for:

      ENTER HOUSE TO COMMIT A&B ETC.

      Lamar D. Randolph has only three property crime charges, which prosecutions were discontinued by motion of the Commonwealth on June 15, 2010.

  2. Ernie Didot says:

    Has anyone actually read anything that dug a little deeper than what the press releases have said?

  3. Delataire says:

    If anyone is interested you can pull up mugshots at

    https://www.vinelink.com/vinelink/siteInfoAction.do?siteId=47000

    by searching using the names.

  4. Ernie Didot says:

    Rumor has it these dudes have been “held” since the murder. What were they being “held” for and why has it taken a MONTH? What theories are there in what happened? I feel like Lt. Columbo, scratching my head saying, “I worry. I mean, little things bother me.” Have neighbors, witnesses, etc. been questioned – outside of the police? I mean, I know I can count on the DNR to report verbatim what the prosecution or HPD provides in the press release, but isn’t there a measure of curiosity out there beyond the press releases?

  5. Brooke says:

    Maybe they don’t want to taint the jury pool? I guess I’m not surprised. We don’t always get all the lurid details of every criminal investigation beyond arrests. Not sure why this one would be any different. I imagine it’ll all come out in the trial.

  6. Ernie says:

    Cool. Thanks Briggman, Delataire and Brooke. The DNR shed a bit more light this a.m. Let’s see what the trial shows.

  7. Jason B says:

    Not to threadjack, but how the Hburg police have been handling the “high profile” cases has been a little bizarre. Did we ever hear the end result of the doctor in the bank with the bomb?

    • Callie says:

      The doctor has been cleared of any suspicion and has returned to his practice as radiologist at RMH. I do not know whether anyone else was arrested in connection with the case.

      • seth says:

        so it wasn’t like fight club after all…..

      • Callie, where have you gotten this information? I would think if the doctor had been cleared, the media would have reported that, since the case is so high-profile and so odd.

        • Callie says:

          David, I work at RMH, and there was an email that went out this week to employees stating that the doctor had been cleared and was to be reinstated. I believe that the leave of abscence that he took was completely voluntary.

  8. I’m thinking that one of the suspects may turn out to be the father of Bonilla’s twins…perhaps another murder to get out of paying child support.

    I have nothing on which to base this, except observation of a long series of cases where this has been the case, including the Ivan Telaguz case we had here.

  9. Ernie says:

    Jason B, I guess that’s what I’m getting at plus the anemic reporting and investigating until this a.m. by the DNR on these types of cases. “Passive reporting” would be a generous description. It’s all curious to me.

    • Jason B says:

      Yes, we never did hear much about the doctor–I wonder if he got a bit of a free pass because he fit into the DNRs editorial profile of “good people”?

      That whole case is strange and was quickly forgotten. Something’s up.

      • Emmy says:

        Maybe they just don’t have anything new to report. It’s possible that the police are still working on it.

      • The DNR did a followup on the doctor, the “bomb” and Wachovia on October 6, 2010. The latest is that the doctor passed a polygraph test administered by a polygraph examiner hired by the doctor’s attorney.

  10. Jason B says:

    In other words, not much. All we’ve heard from the police is “we’re working on this.” Didn’t the doctor blame two “dark skinned” males for strapping the bomb to him?

    It’s being handled very, very lightly.

  11. Having been a police officer, I can tell you that then, as now, law enforcement is not required to brief the public on any investigation at any time.

    Hell, I’d like to get a full briefing on the murder of Alicia Showalter Reynolds and whether there are connections to Morgan Harrington’s murder over the mountain…but I don’t think we’re ever going to see that.

    Law enforcement is not required to submit to the prurient interest of some in the community.

  12. joe says:

    sounds like these young men are looking at the needle.

  13. joe says:

    I think if you all step back and think about it, you might be able to come up with a number of reasons why it’s important for the CA and Police not to share a lot of information to the public about on going cases and investigations.

  14. Ernie says:

    You can be sure, that as long as the “mainstream” press in this town is a conduit for verbatim press releases when “covering a story” -void of all investigative heat on the police or anyone else for that matter – then we should only expect the barest amount of info. Why should the police or CA report more? You’re right Dave & Joe, they certainly are not required and they certainly will not report more if the DNR holds zero curiosity into what is happening. I’m hoping they have the right guys, I do not want them to lose the case, but I’m also a little unsettled about how guys are held for weeks on vague charges that may be unrelated to the REAL charge(s). The CA & Police create their own hothouse for conspiracy theories, racial accusations and misunderstandings when cases proceed in this manner – on a regular basis. They are playing the system in the way that gives them the best chance to win a conviction and I can’t blame them for that. However, limited checks and with lackadaisical Press accountability, it seems there is a greater vulnerability to abuses. It’s just human nature. This looks like a job for… Super-Finnegan!

    • Brooke says:

      Or maybe it’s a job for you, Ernie, since you feel entitled to all that information. Go out there and do a little investigative reporting. ;-)

    • While I appreciate the sentiment, I grow weary of people telling me that I should cover this story or investigate that public official.

      With what time or resources? I’ve never been paid a dime for my work on this website. I make as much money as you for what I write here. As long as everyone says “hburgnews should do a story about that,” and no one makes an effort to help shine a light on these issues, they shall remain murky — as none of us have the spare time to do all the reporting that should be done to contribute to a healthy and well-informed society.

    • joe says:

      you think they might of held them a) because they could b) because they suspected them of this crime?

      i’d rather them hold them on a unrelated crime, then the suspects get away.

      this isn’t a DNR thing….seriously….think about what would happen if newspaper ran stories about this guy or that guys being a suspect….criminals would see it and run away!

  15. Nobody, except Sanchez, who had a pending charge was held for weeks…as far as I can see the other two were arrested after Monday’s handed down the indictments.

    Personally, I feel like the DNR’s reporting is consistently lacking — especially in the area of government/law because those institutions here are run by the Republicans. I personally believe the DNR does not report on any issue, locally or on a state level, that would make the government look bad.

    Lawsuits against state officials have taken place in our own federal court house, and with the exception of an illiterate mother filing one pro se and which was promptly dismissed, stories on such suits — even when fed to the DNR are silenced.

    Ernie, it’s not that I’m unsympathetic to your views…the Commonwealth regularly decides to move for a nolle prosequi in criminal cases here without reason — though Virginia law requires a reason, but local attorneys fail to speak up, and a criminal defendant who would be “free” by having an appropriate dismissal entered, ends up wondering for at least a year, as to whether he/she is going to get locked up again on the same charge.

    Heck, just go into District Court here on a day traffic cases are being adjudicated…you will frequently here a judge ask a POLICE OFFICER of all things, if they’d like the charge against a defendant dismissed…that, folks constitutes the Unauthorized Practice of Law and is a criminal offense (committed by the police officer) in and of itself…and every attorney who witnesses this go on, and does nothing, is guilty, in my view of an ethics infraction that the State Bar probably wouldn’t do anything about anyhow.

    Sorry, folks. Lawyers and politicians run the legal system here in Virginia.

    Election, by the people, of all JDR, District, and Circuit Court judges should be made law, with only the General Assembly having control over Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges. I mean, what business does a Delegate from Chesapeake have in electing judges anywhere else in the state?

  16. Ernie says:

    You’re right Brooke. However, my job title isn’t “Journalist” or “Reporter”. I expect more from alleged journalists. And I don’t think I am just entitled, I think we are all entitled.

    When by complete accident I learn of the nature of these guys three weeks before the DNR reports anything – it makes me start wondering what else is not being reported by people who are paid to do more than cut & paste press releases. I mean, the courthouse is about as foreign to me as the Mall and there are reporters that supposedly spend their days there (the courthouse that is… but maybe they are at the Mall come to think of it).

    On a different note, rumor has it a vigil will occur. Anybody have info on that?

    • Ernie, I’m not trying to be contrarian, but I think your sense of entitlement is misplaced.

      Do you know how much news reporters in this market get paid? Some qualify for food stamps. What exactly do they owe you?

      While I agree with you that the DNR has not been doing the kind of reporting I think this community needs — I wouldn’t have started hburgnews if I thought otherwise — newspapers are businesses, not entitlements. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press, not the right to news.

      What we need now, more than ever, is a new model for news. But if anyone has figured out a scalable, successful and sustainable way to fill that void, I haven’t seen it. The DNR and papers like it are shrinking and crumbling. And unpaid citizen journalists on websites like this certainly don’t have the time nor the resources to devote to ongoing investigative reporting.

      I’m open to suggestions.

      • joe says:

        if you were a reporter, and you knew two people were being investigated and about the charged with murder, would you run it in the paper before the police could arrest them? or would you run it, giving them a chance to jump town?

        just a hype for Ernie..

  17. Emmy says:

    While I am no huge fan of the DNR, I think it’s unfair to suggest that the reporters are not doing their job in this situation. They get paid very little and are given assignments. They can’t just hang out in the court house all day waiting for something to happen. They have to write on what they have, whether we think it’s worthwhile news or not. I don’t think this is some mass conspiracy to cover up something, I think it’s that the information is not being given up and they don’t have the time or resources to dig any deeper.

    Not to mention that while the DNR is the one local news source that has the ability to cover things in depth, it isn’t the only news source with paid reporters. If you’re upset with the DNR about this, why not also be upset with TV3 and WSVA? I mean, I understand why they can’t go after this story, but it seems like the DNR is (in this case) being unfairly attacked.

    • You can’t be upset with WSVA because, even when Karl was here, WSVA news was about 3 minutes/hour…now it’s more like 2 minutes/hour. TV 3, on the other hand, is TV 3.

      • Emmy says:

        Trust me Dave, I’m aware of that. I’m just asking why it’s being suggested that only the DNR is ignoring the story. If there was information to be had, I think someone would have it.

  18. This might be a good time to remind people that hburgnews is always looking for new citizen journalists to join our team. Brent had a big vision way back in 2006, and no doubt the fruit of his work has been a blessing to our community. If you care about the community and would like to try your hand at news writing, contact editors (at) hburgnews.com. We do have some simple standards to keep our stories as informative, truthful, and unopionated as possible, but you don’t have to go to journalism school or spend dozens of hours a week to be a help.

    Many, many issues and events are underreported in Harrisonburg and the surrounding area. If that bugs you as much as it bugs us, help us out!

  19. Ernie Didot says:

    Um… Brent, please take it as a compliment. You’re doing everything you can & I know you don’t have time – it was simply written jokingly. What I’m trying to say is that it’s more people like you and your heart that are needed in paid or volunteer journalism to get at-it on stories like this. I.E. Curiosity (which you have plenty) beyond a press release is needed (by businesses/media like the DNR). That’s all.

    I guess the lesson I’m being told by some of you is that if I see something being under reported and I have questions, then my questions and complaints are only legitimate if I report on it myself. Hmmm… o.k. I’ll remember that and keep my typing quiet UNLESS I put on a Press hat.

    Here’s something I can report on: after soccer practice, I dropped a boy off in Harris Gardens the night before Bonilla was murdered – at the same time of the evening. The boy couldn’t sleep all night after hearing the shot and seeing the police comb around his apartment shining lights everywhere. He stood at the bus stop the next morning right next to the police tape. He said he saw the blood on the ground still (whether this was imaginary or true is beside the point). He and his buddies could not stop shaking that night and the next day.

    Rumors swirl in the neighborhood as to what happened, who did it, why and what the police are doing about it. I only wish I had the time to help find answers to some questions for this boy and other Northeast neighborhood residents. But in the meantime, journalism will have to wait, there’s a ride I need to give.

    • Thanks, Ernie. Again, I wasn’t trying to pick a fight. Rather, I was speaking to the reality of the news business. There’s so little money to go ’round, that the “real” news often goes unreported, or reported without much background or context.

      And the bits of information you’ve heard from that neighborhood are valuable. I wish more readers would chime in with what they know.

  20. Jason B says:

    While Dave is certainly right that law enforcement does not have to answer questions, I’m more concerned that no one appears to be asking them.

    “So, what’s the status of the investigation?”

    “Okay, thanks!”

    I know the DNR writers (even those few good ones) are underpaid and assigned rather than “roving,” but this just indicates a need for deeper alternative news sources. As Dave points out, the DNR (and WSVA, for that matter) actively manipulate opinion by avoiding subjects that they personally don’t agree with.

    I just miss the days of actual reporting, where people get to the meat of the issues and really try to figure out what’s going on. All we have on WSVA is yelling and roundabout pointless discussions; all that’s on DNR is shilling for their politics.

    Whatever happened to the followup questions, or the independent reporting?

    • Jason B says:

      There was supposed to be “silence” in between the quotes by the way. Seems the page didn’t like the action.

  21. Ernie says:

    BINGO Jason B.

  22. To both Jason and Ernie:

    I spoke with a DNR reporter, who didn’t consent to my publishing their name, just after the Bonilla suspects had their court hearings this morning in Circuit Court.

    Marsha has moved to join the trials of all three defendants, but appears to be seeking the death penalty only against Sanchez — who has been appointed TWO Fairfax County attorneys who meet the Supreme Court of Virginia’s qualifications to be lead and/or co-counsel in capital murder cases. Local attorneys, Robert Hahn and Roland Santos are representing each of the other defendants. All defendants are waiving their right to a speedy trial, and the next court date will be December 2, at 1:00 for all motions filed at least two weeks prior to December 2.

    It’s not that the DNR and other media aren’t asking questions, it’s that law enforcement ain’t talking about it, and certainly, what Marsha’s going to say is going to be VERY limited lest she compromise her case.

    The media can ask all of the questions they want to you (and you might want them to ask) but we’re talking about a possible death penalty case here — they’re not going to blow the case by showing their cards before they need to.

    Just my $.02 worth, your mileage may vary.

    • Jason B says:

      Yes, however, there are sources besides the prosecutor’s office and police officers to talk to. Statements from the attorneys? People who knew the victim/alleged killer? Reconstruction of the crime itself? There is so much blank space in this case that wouldn’t necessarily undermine anyone’s case in one way or another.

      • I’m pretty sure the Virginia State Bar strictly limits what both the prosecution and defense can say, pretrial. The people who knew either the victim or the suspects are likely to be witnesses so I’m sure Marsha had advised them not to speak to the press.

        It’s not like this type of thing is out of the ordinary.

  23. Jason B says:

    I guess I’m spoiled by “big city” news. You always hear from neighbors, relatives, and hear suppositions, see the crime scene, etc., etc. Here, especially recently, there’s a void of information, for some reason, that seems to go beyond what is allowed in the courtroom.

    The DNR also appears to report more in-depth if it is a member of “their” readership/community, or if it fits in with their editorial prerogatives.

  24. MF says:

    Jason,

    The main problem is local reporters can’t afford to burn any bridges with any city or state officials. There is so little news in the area to report on they have to keep a good relationship with Marsha and the City police, or risk being shut out.
    There is no incentive either. In a big city you break a big case you get remembered, you get journalist awards. Here, you risk getting fired if you piss off the city police or Marsha.

  25. Jason B says:

    MF,

    I hadn’t thought of that. What an awful situation, to have journalism subjugated in that way.

  26. Ernie says:

    Thanks for the scoop Dave! And MF, I hear you – great point. However, if a reporter is essentially photocopying the press release anyway, they don’t have much to lose if they stretch themselves just a wee-bit and ask a few questions more. I mean, Garst and the police are still going to provide a press release. So what would be the difference in what we’re getting now.

    As to the notion that there are not very many things to report on in this town: I have had only a few casual conversations with a couple of attorneys in town at arbitrary times and have been shocked to learn of the meatiest, most interesting, impacting, shocking, newsworthy stories imaginable. Yet… crickets from the DNR and WHSV.

    And don’t give me the bull about time, money, food stamps and fear of burning bridges in a small town. If someone signed up to be a journalist, you go out and ask questions like Briggman did. So a journalist is going to get awards and recognition for being a good soldier cutting and pasting press releases? When you are on the clock, no matter how little you are making, ask questions, investigate, report – SHOW CURIOSITY!

  27. MF says:

    Erine,

    That all sounds great. But the reality is reporting is just a job, not some higher calling. When you got bills to pay and college loans, it really doesn’t make much sense to put your revenue stream in jeopardy. Especially with how bad the economy is right now. Briggman can ask questions all day, and it will never put his ability to put food on the table at risk.

    The point I was making is that the awards are not what matters, the awards are what keep your job in a big city. If you don’t have those you can break a story, and no one will probably remember your name a few months down the line when the paper cans you.

    I agree with what you are saying, its just not the way things work. Reporters are people too, they can’t be expected to act like saints.

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