Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Court Testimony Shows Strands Family Found His Slain Body

ACCOMACK — Murder charges against a man accused of killing Johnny Strand, a popular local restaurant manager, were certified to a grand jury at a preliminary hearing in General District court here.

Fernando Carrillo Sanchez, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guatemala, stands charged with killing Strand, 49, the manager of the Onley Pizza Hut.

Commonwealth’s attorney Gary Agar presented evidence that showed that the black Ford Expedition that was stolen from Strand’s Melfa home was found several days later near the residence of the accused man.

He said also that Carrillo Sanchez made and signed a confession the night he was picked up by the police and that there was a previous unspecified relationship between the two men. Investigators found Strand’s telephone number on the defendant’s cell phone.

Gladys Church, a relative of Strand’s, answered Agar’s questions about May 1, the day she found Strand lying naked, face-down and covered with blood in his bed at his Melfa home.

Church said she became concerned about Strand when he failed to pick her son up from his late- night job at Perdue. She picked up her son herself and drove to Strand’s house.

“We went there at about 2 a.m.,” she said. There were no lights on and his SUV was not there.

“The next morning, we kept calling and calling and he didn’t pick up,” Church said, adding she was nervous because Strand never missed work.

Church told the court she made repeated calls to Strand’s telephone and went to talk to some of his friends to ask if they knew where he was. No one did, she said.
At about 1 p.m., Church said she went to the police.

“I told them my Uncle Johnny was not answering his phone.” Church and her son drove to Strand’s home again.

The door was locked and his vehicle was not there. She said she and her son used a credit card to gain entrance to the trailer.

She began to sob almost uncontrollably as she described the horrific scene.

“We walked in. I got halfway down the hall.” Her son, ahead of her screamed, “‘Oh, no, Don’t come in here.’ I said, ‘I am coming in.’”

“He was lying on his stomach, face to the wall,” she said. “I could see blood splattered up the headboard, up the wall and on the floor.”

“I was screaming. We went back outside. I said, ‘Somebody killed him. Why, why.’”

Beverly Jacks, a volunteer emergency technician with the Melfa Fire and Rescue, was the next to arrive on the scene.

Jacks described the scene just as it had been told by Church. She said it looked like Strand had been dead for some time.

Tom Hedge, an investigator for the sheriff’s department at the time, described the murder scene. He said Strand had trauma to his head from multiple blows.

There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle, he said.

He said the wounds were consistent with the victim being killed where he lay, describing him as “unaware.” He found a blue Little League baseball bat covered in blood under the bed where Strand lay.

Strand’s vehicle was not located until four days later. The sheriff’s department received a tip that it was in Dreamland One mobile home park. They found the vehicle and asked neighbors to which trailer it belonged.

A person was seen running to that trailer, he said, and then refused to answer the door when police knocked. Finally three men came out and all were taken into custody.

Investigator Anthony Bright, with the help of an interpreter, questioned the suspect for several hours. He described Carrillo Sanchez as “very calm.”

“He began to cry and then made a confession,” Bright said. The accused man said he was forced into sex with Strand, Bright said. He claimed that Strand hit him with the baseball bat. Bright said he saw no wounds or bruising on the defendant’s body.

Carrillo Sanchez was defended by attorney Garrett Dunham.

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