The neighborhoods are some 50 miles apart. One is in New Kent County near Quinton, a stretch of two-story homes on tree-shaded lots tucked off the main drag, the farm fields and the woodlands. It’s a suburban street, lined with basketball hoops and big wheels in the yards.
Stafford Shaw Sr. lived there with his wife of more than 20 years and their three children.
And in southern Chesterfield County near Ettrick, Ferintosh Court is a cul-de-sac pinned with those familiar basketball hoops, manicured lawns, simple two-story homes, economy sedans and an occasional flower garden.
There, Morgan R. Rogers lived with her 1-year-old daughter, Leah. Shaw’s parents said he had fathered the little girl with Rogers. She was a beloved figure in the neighborhood and worked at a Walmart supply store not far away.
Shaw’s rampage that crossed several counties and resulted in the deaths of five people ended the apparent double life he lived in these two quiet neighborhoods.
Shaw was killed in the fiery crash he caused Friday afternoon on Interstate 295 in Hanover County, and he left in his wake four other victims: Rogers and their daughter, both shot to death in their home, and two strangers, brother and sister Wendell E. Hayman, 65, of Kansas City, Kan., and Ethel D. Ellis, 66, of Washington, who were killed in their vehicle on I-295 while heading to Virginia Beach for a camping trip.
In New Kent, at his permanent residence, “there was just an outpouring of concern” after the events of Friday, said one of Shaw’s neighbors, who declined to give his name because Shaw’s widow had not approved his speaking. “They have always been wonderful people. Friday night there were some 23 cars out front — people wanting to express their sorrow, do what they could.”
In February, Shaw had choked and beaten Rogers to the point of unconsciousness, said a neighbor who in the following weeks successfully urged Rogers to purchase a weapon and who changed the locks on her doors.
Shaw, 43, was convicted in Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court of misdemeanor domestic assault of Rogers and was sentenced to serve two months in jail. He was allowed to serve the time on weekends, and he reported to jail for his first weekend of incarceration at 8 p.m. May 22, said Chesterfield sheriff’s Sgt. Steven Price.
He was released at 8 p.m. last Sunday, May 24, and was scheduled to report to jail again on Friday, Price said.
Shaw initially was charged with strangulation resulting in bodily injury, assault and battery of a family member, and unlawful wounding in the Feb. 3 attack. But it appears the more serious charges were either withdrawn or dismissed during his last court appearance, jail officials said.
“We begged and begged her to respect the terms of the protective order” that barred Shaw from contacting Rogers, a neighbor said. But Shaw seemed to be staying at Rogers’ home all last week, neighbors said.
Serving time on weekends allowed Shaw to keep running his automobile repair business in Henrico County, SS Autoworks LLC on Oakleys Lane near South Laburnum Avenue. The telephone there was not in service Saturday.
Neighbors were struck by Rogers’ love for her daughter, and Shaw was often seen with the little girl on his lap riding on the lawn mower.
When police arrived at the home for a welfare check shortly after noon Friday, after Shaw had left the house, Ferintosh Court became a place of stunned disbelief.
Rogers and the girl had been shot to death.
The scene on I-295 Friday afternoon was horrific. Some of the vehicles were reduced to rubble, and traffic lanes were blocked for hours.
“He was talking to his sister on his cellphone when he crashed,” Stafford Shaw’s mother, Ramona, who is in her 80s, said Saturday at her home in Richmond’s Highland Park.
Shaw, his family said, had been a dutiful son all his life, churchgoing and respectful. And the family said they are urging police to investigate a very different version of events.
Rogers, they said, had demanded that Shaw leave his wife and family in New Kent and marry her. When he refused, family members said, Rogers pulled out a gun and said, “I’m going to take away the thing that you love most in your life.” Seconds later, the little girl died in Shaw’s arms, shot to death by her mother, he told his sister after he left the Ferintosh Court house.
Then Shaw shot Rogers and fled, the family said.
While they searched for him, Chesterfield police charged Shaw on Friday with two counts of second-degree murder.
Asked Saturday about the family’s version of events inside the Ferintosh Court home, Chesterfield police Capt. Chris Hensley said police continue to believe that Shaw shot both victims, but he said the case remains under investigation.
Shaw’s family said he was reacting to a horrible dilemma and fled the area in desperation. A neighbor in New Kent saw him kneeling on the street in front of his home, praying, before heading off for I-295 in the Corvette.
Back on Ferintosh Court, neighbors struggled to comprehend a crime that has broken the community’s sense of cohesion and safety.
“It goes to show the uselessness of protective orders,” said one resident, who stressed that Rogers had repeatedly been urged not to allow Shaw back into her home. But he had been living with Rogers for at least several days before the shootings, according to two cul-de-sac residents.
Rogers had told some concerned neighbors that she was confident Shaw would never harm her daughter.
In the hours after the deaths of the girl and her mother, neighbors pitched in to help police locate Rogers’ family members through Facebook posts. A vigil for Rogers and Leah was canceled Saturday night. Residents said matters still seemed to be too much in flux.
Hours earlier on Saturday, Thomas Snead, who is 72 now, sat on the lawn of his eastern Henrico home tending to the plant life in his yard that is a focus of his life.
“This is what I love to do, to take care of my plants,” he said, delicately shaping each bush to a flawless gumdrop form. His wife died two years ago, and the retired furniture-design worker lives alone.
On Friday evening, his telephone rang. It was his daughter urging him to watch the evening news.
Snead heard about the death of Shaw in the crash that backed up traffic for miles. Snead turned off the TV as the horrible details of the Ferintosh Court killings filled his thoughts.
Twenty-six years ago this month, Shaw, then 20, was charged with killing Snead’s 17-year-old daughter, Tonette Snead.
“I thought to myself that this never would have happened to that mother and her little girl if justice had been done all those years ago,” Snead said.
Shaw was found not guilty by a Richmond judge in October 1989 of killing Tonette. She had been stabbed to death and strangled. Firefighters found her body in the trunk of her burning car on the eastern edge of the city near Woodford Cemetery and Mechanicsville Turnpike. She was four months pregnant; Shaw denied the child was his.
Witnesses for the prosecution and defense were in conflict about Shaw’s whereabouts in the hours before the teen’s death.
Tonette Snead is buried in Greenwood Cemetery off Patterson Avenue. Visitors will notice how lovingly the flowers and bushes nearby are kept.
Thomas Snead said his wife could never bring herself to visit.
“She never could get over losing her little girl,” he said, turning back to the shrubbery by the edge of the house.