A man who shot and killed his grandfather in Stafford County more than two years ago was found not guilty by reason of insanity Thursday.
Brandon Lee Cohen, 26, killed 78-year-old Thomas E. Ennis Jr. on July 21, 2019, inside their home on Clearview Lane in the Clearview Mobile Home Park. He then called 911 to report the slaying, and was taken into custody without incident and charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Cohen on Thursday accepted a plea agreement in Stafford Circuit Court worked out by defense attorney Julia Dillon and prosecutor Amy Casey. Both sides agreed that Cohen was legally insane at the time of the offense.
He will receive further mental health examinations and treatment pending his sentencing, which is set for Jan. 24. Judge Victoria Willis would then have Cohen committed to a mental health facility for an undetermined amount of time or order that he receive outpatient treatment. The latter option is unlikely because of the seriousness of the offense.
According to the evidence, Ennis was preparing his wife’s daily medication the morning of July 21, as he did every morning. He and Ruth Ennis had been married for 58 years and had allowed their grandson to move into their home several months earlier.
About 8:15 a.m., Cohen shot Ennis for no apparent reason. Asked by a dispatcher why he did it, Cohen made a statement that included “trafficking people in there, touching my body, giving me health problems, all kinds of [expletive].”
He also claimed he had called 911 before about the problem and had gone to a hospital to report the abuse.
Casey said the investigation showed that the grandparents had been nothing but kind to Cohen and that Cohen had not contacted police or a hospital about any abuse.
A mental health evaluation requested by Dillion ended with a doctor determining that Cohen was insane when he killed his grandfather. Casey requested a second opinion, and a doctor hired by the prosecution confirmed the earlier diagnosis. Successful insanity defenses are extremely rare in Stafford and elsewhere in the area.
An evaluation completed last month determined that Cohen was now competent enough to stand trial or to enter the plea he entered Thursday.
Ennis died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, an autopsy revealed.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404