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Date published: 9/26/2012
RICHMOND--A Blackstone man has pleaded guilty in the killing of another man in the parking lot of a Richmond veterans hospital.
Cornelius I. Hayes, 55, was charged with five counts but agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to using a firearm in a violent crime causing the death of another person.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys said in court papers that an appropriate federal sentencing range is between 30 years and the maximum of life in prison. Probation officials will determine the range before Hayes is sentenced Jan. 18.
"You do understand the rest of your life hangs on that report?" U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson told Hayes at the 20-minute hearing.
Hayes said he understood. Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and ankle shackles, he answered a series of mostly yes-or-no questions from the judge.
The government filed a notice in July that it would not seek the death penalty. Hayes had been scheduled for a November trial before prosecutors agreed to drop four charges--first-degree murder, attempted murder and two firearms counts--in exchange for the guilty plea.
Hayes admitted in court that he fatally shot James Lee, also of Blackstone, in the parking lot of Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Medical Center on Feb. 22. He also was originally accused of trying to kill another person on hospital grounds.
According to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Lee and another person identified only by the initials "P.H." arrived at the medical center together and were approached by Hayes. After a brief confrontation with P.H., Hayes pulled out a .38 caliber gun and shot Lee in the shoulder. P.H. fled and was pursued a short distance by Hayes, who returned to Lee and shot him a second time.
Other court documents say state troopers found a revolver in Hayes' lap when they arrested him shortly after the shooting.