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The former deputy will have a joint sentencing May 7 for killing his ex-wife and shooting a trooper.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Jonathan Agee, right, appears in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Christiansburg.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
CHRISTIANSBURG — Before he shot at and injured a state police sergeant, prosecutors say Jonathan Agee made it known that “Cops are going to die today.”
Flanked by six bailiffs, the former Franklin County sheriff’s deputy pleaded no contest Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court to shooting Virginia State Police Sgt. Matthew Brannock on Memorial Day 2011.
Agee, 33, now faces the possibility of three life sentences for his convictions in the county and in Roanoke that stem from his violent Memorial Day spree, which began with the killing of his ex-wife and ended with the shooting of Brannock.
On Jan. 11 in Roanoke Circuit Court he pleaded no contest to and was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Jennifer Agee and the use of a gun to commit a murder.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Bobby Turk on Tuesday found Agee guilty of attempted capital murder, aggravated malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and felony eluding — all related to the shooting of Brannock.
Agee will have a joint sentencing hearing in Roanoke on May 7, where he will be sentenced on his convictions in both courts.
On May 30, 2011, Jennifer Agee was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Roanoke convenience store. Shortly after the shooting at the Sheetz on Williamson Road, Brannock was injured by gunfire on Interstate 81 in Montgomery County while he took part in the pursuit of the gunman. Jonathan Agee was later charged in Roanoke and Montgomery County as the lone person responsible for the shootings.
It was at some point while eluding police that Agee made a statement to his wife, Julia Angell, that law enforcement officers were “going to die,” according to county Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt.
Agee fled in his marked Franklin County sheriff’s car, driving on I-81 at speeds in excess of 115 mph while Brannock pursued him, Pettitt said. At one point, Agee steered his car into Brannock’s, and both cars eventually came to a stop. When Brannock opened his car door, Agee fired numerous shots, Pettitt said.
Pettitt said Brannock was shot in his upper right leg, requiring surgery. Brannock never fired back at Agee, she said.
One of Agee’s stray bullets blew out the rear window of a car occupied by a family from Pennsylvania, but no one was injured, Pettitt said.
Agee was later wounded and captured.
After going on medical leave for his injuries, Brannock left the state police later in 2011 and was hired as director of operations at Martinsville Speedway.
Agee provided short answers to Turk’s questions Tuesday about entering no contest pleas but did not speak at length during the hearing.
Agee’s no contest pleas mean he doesn’t dispute the charges and accepts that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him. It allows him to avoid admitting he committed the crimes, but the conviction and sentence are the same as if he had pleaded guilty.
Two of Agee’s convictions in Montgomery County — attempted capital murder and aggravated malicious wounding — carry a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
Pettitt said Tuesday after the hearing that her office will seek life sentences for both charges. Agee is also facing that sentence in Roanoke for his first-degree murder charge.
Agee’s lawyer, C.J. Covati, said after the hearing that he expects the sentencing hearing will be a “whole-day event,” partly because of victim-impact testimony from Jennifer Agee’s family and, possibly, Brannock.
Covati said Agee’s use of steroids caused the outburst of violence.
“But for the steroids, this wouldn’t have happened,” Covati said. “He was an eight-year veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and he never had a use of force problem there.”
Covati said Agee was not prescribed steroids but was using them because of a “body image issue.”
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