A Goochland County man was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday in the June 2015 death of his girlfriend inside her Rockville home.
The jury recommended that Lamare Shiron Jennings, 39, be sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, plus a $100,000 fine, in the slaying of his girlfriend, 44-year-old Leaudrey Salmon. Jurors also recommended life in prison for abduction with the intent to defile and 10 years in prison for robbery, in connection with the murder.
A judge will formally sentence Jennings at 11 a.m. on Jan. 9 in Hanover County Circuit Court. In Virginia, judges typically sentence in line with jury recommendations, but they can give shorter terms.
In a 911 phone recording played for the jury during a three-day trial, Jennings told Salmon that he didn’t believe she loved him and that he was going to kill her.
While she screamed loudly, moaned and begged for her life, saying she needed to live for the sake of her children, Jennings gave her demands and continued torturing her.
It was during that approximately 20-minute encounter captured on a 911 recording that Jennings expressed anger over his belief that Salmon, a Hanover County school bus driver, had become romantically involved with another man. After having knocked her to the ground, he demanded she get up and walk to various rooms, ultimately toward her bedroom.
In the drawn-out brutality, according to evidence in the case, Jennings choked her repeatedly using his hands and a rope, which was left bloodied and covered with Salmon’s hair.
Hanover County prosecutor Mackenzie Babichenko said that after Salmon had been strangled and left limp, Jennings used a knife to slit her throat three times from one end of her neck to the other.
“This entire case is about jealousy and control and power,” Babichenko told the jury, adding that Jennings had premeditated her death, ultimately killing her in a deliberate fashion.
“He wasn’t letting her go anywhere. He was calling the shots,” Babichenko said.
After a 911 phone call was placed from a wireless landline phone inside Salmon’s home, the dispatcher was greeted with Salmon screaming and Jennings in the background demanding: “Get up! Get up!”
The Sheriff’s Office called back. Prosecutors believe it was then that Salmon answered the phone unbeknownst to Jennings, who confiscated the phone and put it in his pocket as he brutalized Salmon from room to room.
Jennings had taken both Salmon’s landline and cellphones, according to authorities.
After the murder, he used Salmon’s cellphone to call his longtime friend and ex-girlfriend, Kristina Smith of Midlothian, who referred to Jennings as a friend and lover in an email to Jennings weeks ago while he awaited his trial, according to prosecutors.
Jennings murdered Salmon at about 11:30 p.m. on June 5, 2015, inside her home in the 11400 block of Pinhook Road in Rockville, according to authorities. Salmon’s body was left in a pool of her own blood in her bedroom. The lights were off when deputies arrived, the doors to her bedroom and home were shut, and Jennings had fled in his truck just as deputies were nearing the crime scene, according to authorities.
Jennings, who testified that he drank alcohol during much of the evening, wrecked his truck while fleeing and then managed to get to the ATV of a former employer on a horse breeding farm. Jennings took the ATV and used it as his new getaway vehicle, authorities said.
During the 2½ days when Jennings was wanted for Salmon’s murder, he got rid of Salmon’s cellphone, burned his clothes and stayed overnight with Smith, according to evidence presented in court. He also spent time with other friends.
Smith testified that she questioned Jennings about what he had done pertaining to Salmon but that Jennings wouldn’t detail exactly what had transpired.
Jennings testified Wednesday that he was enraged, hurt and intoxicated the night of his girlfriend’s death. He said they had dated for about eight months.
Jennings, who has a long rap sheet of felony convictions, said his memory of exactly what he did to Salmon the night of her death was spotty.
“It was really bad. It was horrible, and I still don’t understand it,” Jennings said of his actions. “Yes, I do remember choking her.”
He added that “everything was just a blur” that night.
The Hanover County Sheriff’s Office quickly identified Jennings as a suspect and searched for him with the assistance of state police and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, ultimately finding him more than two days later at the Red Roof Inn on Commerce Road in South Richmond.
Hanover sheriff’s investigator Frank Wayne said that after Jennings was caught, he asked: “How did y’all find me?”
After the jury recommended the lengthy sentences, family members gathered on the courthouse stairs and expressed gratitude for the jury and the thorough work done by investigators. They described Salmon as a loving woman who constantly thought about her family members.
Harold Salmon, Leaudrey Salmon’s estranged husband, testified that she was a caring woman who volunteered in the community, including for Habitat for Humanity. He said that her family has been devastated by her death.
Harold said of their teenage daughter: “I had to watch for 25 minutes while my daughter cried over her mother’s coffin, and there was nothing I could do to help.”