NORFOLK, Va. — Ziontay Palmer appeared in court Wednesday morning for his preliminary hearing. The 20-year-old faces three counts of second-degree murder, among other charges.
He is accused of shooting and killing three women and hurting two others in the Young Terrace neighborhood of Norfolk in November 2021. The three women who were killed were Nicole Lovewine, Deidre Brown, and Sara Costine.
Attorneys told the judge in court Wednesday one of the victims who survived is Ziontay Palmer's girlfriend was pregnant at the time of the shooting. Family members say she and her child are now doing fine.
The other shooting victim testified in court. She said she was doing dishes while her kids were playing outside on a trampoline behind Sara Costine's home when she heard several gunshots ring out.
The witness said she ran out to see if her kids were OK when she saw a woman on the ground and Sara Costine standing over her. That's when she said she saw Palmer walking toward Costine and talking to her. When Costine turned around to look at him, that's when Palmer allegedly shot her multiple times, killing her.
The witness testified her kids then yelled at her from behind the fence, telling her to run. She testified that Palmer turned, looked directly at her, and started walking quickly toward her. She said she tried running for cover behind a trash can, but he shot her in the jaw before she could make it.
She said Palmer then shot her multiple times and described the suspect as having a blank expression on his face with no emotion.
The victim testified she went through months of recovery and is still experiencing problems from her injuries.
Family members of Nicole Lovewine and Lovewine's daughter, who is Palmer's girlfriend and the one who got shot, spoke out following the hearing.
Lovewine's older sister, Tina Hines, said she doesn't think she'll get answers as to why someone would kill Lovewine and hurt so many others.
"We don't know what his motive was. We don't even know him, but for him to take three lives like that... it's sad," said Hines. "We just want justice for every life he took."
"I hope they throw the book at him. I hope he never sees the streets again," said Lovewine's brother, Andre Lovewine.
In court, attorneys privately showed the judge RING doorbell footage, which captured video of a person firing a gun and running away.
Palmer's attorney, Eric Korslund, asked the judge to dismiss the charges of malicious wounding and the use of a firearm in malicious wounding in the case of Palmer's girlfriend. He argued it's because there is no solid evidence proving his girlfriend's injuries are related to the incident.
Korslund said watching the video back and hearing from witnesses brought out a lot of emotion but that Palmer maintains his innocence.
"Obviously the witness who testified who was not only shot in the face but observed these other women get shot, she was visibly traumatized," said Korslund. "He's sympathetic to everyone involved, but he's not admitting to being the shooter in this case."
Lovewine's other family members say they forgive Palmer for what happened, but they remain devastated over this case.
"I would like the Commonwealth of Virginia to really do their job and show him no mercy at this point," said Cynthia Hines, Lovewine's niece.
"Yeah, because he took all their lives and these were innocent people," said Tina Hines.
Palmer's case is now headed to a grand jury within Norfolk Circuit Court.