(Delmarvanow.com) -- An Accomack County jury convicted an 18-year-old Atlantic man of murder in the shooting death of another teenager in August 2016.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for only 35 minutes Sept. 26 before finding Zachary Townsend guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Nathanial Ayres, 19, of Nelsonia during an argument over drugs on Aug. 12, 2016 near Atlantic.
The jury also convicted Townsend of robbery and firearm charges.
Because Townsend was a juvenile when he committed the crime, his sentence will be decided by the court rather than recommended by the jury.
Townsend was returned to jail to await sentencing.
During the trial in Accomack County court, the jury heard that Ayres and two other men, Noah Mackey and Jeremiah Thompson, planned to hang out together that night and wanted to find some drugs.
“I called Zach and told him we were coming over, to hang out and to get some marijuana,” Mackey testified.
Mackey testified that Townsend told him not to come to his house, but to meet him at the corner of Greta Road and Nocks Landing Road.
There was an unoccupied two-story house there, set back off the road with a place to park in front, Mackey testified.
Ayres drove Mackey and Thompson there in a white Dodge pickup truck. It was close to midnight when they arrived, the jury heard.
The court heard that they waited a few minutes, then they saw Zach Townsend walking toward them.
Ayres was in the driver’s seat, Townsend got into the front passenger seat and Mackey and Thompson were in the rear seat of the truck, the court heard.
“Zach showed Nate (Ayres) the bag,” said Mackey. “Nate said it didn’t smell like marijuana and asked if it was spice. Zach said it was weed.”
An argument ensued, Mackey testified, adding, “Zach pulled out a gun, a black revolver and put it in Nate’s face.”
Mackey said Townsend demanded money.
“Nate pushed Zach’s hand with the gun. He shot him,” Mackey told the court.
He said Ayres got out of the car from the driver’s seat to get away and Townsend ran around the front of the truck demanding money and shot him one more time.
Mackey said he started to run away, then heard Ayres call for help and another shot.
“I asked him (Townsend) if he killed him. He said 'Yeah, I shot him in the head,'” Mackey told the court.
He said Townsend said they should call 911, adding it was Townsend who made the call.
Later, when questioned by a sheriff’s office investigator, Mackey said it was Thompson who shot Ayres.
“I told him it was Jeremiah because I didn’t want Zach to be in trouble because he was my friend,” Mackey said.
On the witness stand, Mackey said he talked with his mother about what happened that night and decided to tell police the truth.
Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Kinnison testified that she found six gunshot injuries on Ayres’ body.
“There was also a blunt force injury,” she told the court, adding the bullets she removed were .32 caliber.
Officers who responded to the scene testified they found the front seats of the truck covered in blood, blood on the front fender of the truck and the victim lying face up in a pool of blood on the ground beside the white truck.
His blood-soaked wallet was nearby, the court heard.
Defense attorney Paul Watson argued that the “conflicting stories” created reasonable doubt over whether his client was the shooter.
He said there was no physical evidence, no DNA, no fingerprints and a gun was never found.
He said the fact that Mackey changed his story created doubt as to which man really pulled the trigger.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan called the shooting a “tragic, horrible situation.”
He presented other witnesses who saw Townsend earlier with a gun and heard him talk about committing a robbery.