A man who was accused of robbing one woman and shooting another in the head during a July 2017 incident at a Fredericksburg playground was cleared of all charges Tuesday.
Dajon Armani Morton, 25, was acquitted of four charges, including robbery and wounding during the commission of a felony, following a two-day trial in Fredericksburg Circuit Court.
Judge Sarah Deneke ruled that the prosecution’s evidence simply did not prove that Morton was the person who robbed Latisha Moore and shot Nahkyia Smith in the head on July 27, 2017, at the W.L. Harris Neighborhood Park in the Mayfield community.
“There’s no question that a horrific crime occurred,” Deneke said. “But I don’t know whether [Morton] did it or not.”
It was the second time that the charges against Morton have gone away. The first time was in February, just before a trial was scheduled to start.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Humphries dropped the charges because of a mix-up with a search warrant that she determined left her without the needed evidence to get a conviction.
But she was able to reinstate the charges a short time later after the clerical error was fixed. Morton’s acquittal Tuesday means the charges cannot come back again.
According to the evidence presented by Humphries and prosecutor Ed O’Shea, Moore inherited $250,000 in 2017 and was spending freely on a group of people that included Morton. Moore rented motel rooms that the group used and she treated several young women to such things as getting their nails and hair done, clothes, shoes, food and alcohol.
Humphries accused Smith of “making Moore’s money available to the group” and suggested that she helped set up the robbery that night at the playground. Moore had withdrawn $6,000 that day from her account.
But it turned out Moore didn’t have the money with her when the armed robber “showed up out of nowhere” and took her purse. During the commotion, the gun apparently went off accidentally and a stray bullet struck Smith.
Smith spent five months in a hospital and rehabilitation facility, but survived the incident, which she said she doesn’t remember. No charges were filed against Smith.
“[Smith] paid a horrible price for her role in this scheme,” Humphries said in her closing argument.
Defense attorney Mark Murphy attacked Moore’s identification of Morton as the robber, the only direct evidence tying him to the crime. The identification came four days after the incident.
Moore, who was 18 at the time, had twice earlier said she didn’t know who the robber was. But she said that after talking with family members, she became convinced it was Morton who robbed her. She said she recognized the smell of his cologne.
Murphy also pointed out that Moore never mentioned Morton’s name until it was suggested to her by a city detective. When the detective later asked Moore why she suspected Morton, Moore replied, “because they’re always asking for stuff and Dajon gets mad when you tell him no.”
Murphy also put on three witnesses who said Morton was with them in the park that night and couldn’t have been the robber. Moore claimed that he left prior to the robbery.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404