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ACCOMAC -- The trial of the man charged with the May 2010 murder of popular restaurant manager Johnny Strand will get under way Thursday morning in Accomac.
Fernando Carrillo Sanchez, 24, of Accomac, is charged with second-degree murder. He elected to have the case heard in a bench trial -- meaning a circuit judge will decide the case -- rather than by a jury.
Strand, 49, a well-known community figure, was for years the manager of the Onley Pizza Hut, after having started out as a dishwasher when the restaurant opened in the early 1990s. The restaurant was dedicated in his name in a ceremony held three months after his death.
Testimony at a preliminary hearing in General District court last summer revealed that a relative of Strand found him dead in his Pine Ridge Drive home in Melfa on May 1 when she went to check on him after he failed to pick up her son from his night job at Perdue.
Gladys Church said she and her son drove to Strand's home about 2 a.m. and saw that no lights were on and his SUV was not there.
They went there again in the afternoon after Strand did not answer his phone despite her repeated calls.
Church testified that after using a credit card to gain entrance through the locked door she found Strand lying naked, face-down and covered with blood in his bed.
An investigator for the Accomack County Sheriff's Office testified that Strand had trauma to his head from multiple blows and said there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle at the home.
Fernando Carrillo Sanchez
A blue Little League baseball bat covered in blood was found under the bed where Strand lay.
An autopsy report concluded that Strand died from blunt force trauma to the head and said his body had eight lacerations to the sides and back of the head and two lacerations on his left eyebrow.
Carillo Sanchez, a Guatemalan native who later told officials he never attended school and was sick as a child, was arrested several days after Strand's body was discovered and after the victim's missing vehicle was found in the Dreamland mobile home park on U.S. Route 13 in Accomac where the accused lived.
Carillo Sanchez confessed after being questioned by an investigator with the help of an interpreter.
He said he was forced into sex with Strand, according to Investigator Anthony Bright's testimony at the preliminary hearing.
The accused also claimed Strand hit him with the baseball bat, but Bright said he saw no wounds or bruising on Carillo Sanchez' body.
Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Agar said during a hearing this summer Carillo Sanchez has been evaluated and was "slower than average, but found competent to stand trial."