THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHESTERFIELD COUNTY Steven C. McCallum,
Gregory R. Sheldon (Bain Sheldon, PLC, on brief), for
Christian Obenshain, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R.
Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Humphreys, Beales and Alston Argued at
D. ALSTON, JR. JUDGE.
Edwards ("appellant") appeals his murder conviction
from the Circuit Court of Chesterfield County ("trial
court"), where a jury convicted him of killing Leyla
Namiranian. On appeal, appellant asserts that the trial court
erred by (1) denying his motion to dismiss for improper
venue, and (2) finding sufficient evidence to support his
conviction. We find that the trial court did not err and
Namiranian ("Namiranian") was last seen alive on
April 4, 2012. That evening, she hosted her friend Peter
Paoli for dinner. Namiranian was unusually anxious throughout
the entire evening, frequently checking her cell phone and
looking out the front door of her home. Namiranian and Paoli
ate dinner, exchanged gifts, and became intimate with each
other. At around 9:45 p.m., a neighbor observed a silver
Cadillac driven by a "football-player type"
African-American male quickly reverse out of Namiranian's
driveway. When Paoli later departed at around 11:00 p.m.,
Namiranian was alive and well.
around 5:15 a.m. on April 5, a neighbor walking his dogs
noticed a large, African-American male in Namiranian's
front yard. A little more than an hour later, between 6:15
and 6:30 a.m., another neighbor heard two brief, high-pitched
noises sounding like screams come from the direction of
Namiranian's house. Namiranian never showed up for work
on April 5, so a coworker began periodically calling her cell
phone to check on her. The coworker testified that on some
calls the phone would ring several times, and on other calls,
it would only ring once and then transition to voicemail.
After several failed attempts to get in contact with
Namiranian, the coworker became very concerned and contacted
the police arrived at Namiranian's house, nothing in
particular indicated that a crime had occurred. The front
door of the house was locked, no evidence of any forced entry
was observed, and Namiranian's car was parked in the
garage. Inside the house, there were no signs of a struggle -
nothing was broken or knocked over, and everything seemed in
its proper place. An investigation conducted by the police
established that Namiranian was leading a completely normal
life, and was not planning any trips or moving from the area.
Her mailbox contained several envelopes, and Namiranian's
two cats were in the house. She had tickets for an upcoming
event in Washington, D.C. All of Namiranian's personal
items were in various rooms, including her car keys, work
bag, glasses, pills, hairbrush, and toothbrush. Her passport,
social security card, and citizenship documents were filed
away in her home office. However, the police did not find
Namiranian's two cell phones.
investigation by the police began yielding interesting
details. Namiranian kept two couches in her living room - one
had a large, red blanket draped over it, the other did not.
However, the couch without a blanket had a rectangular
discoloration across the cushions. Additionally,
Namiranian's journal was found in her work bag, and it
contained several entries about her tumultuous relationship
friend, Kimberly Pugh, testified about the history between
Namiranian and appellant. According to Pugh, the relationship
began well but unraveled due to appellant's possessive
and violent nature. Eventually, Namiranian broke it off.
During an altercation in February 2012, appellant choked
Namiranian and threw her to the ground. Significantly,
Namiranian noted in her journal that she then ended the
relationship permanently. Namiranian wrote:
I'm going between fear and anger. I broke up with
[appellant] for the fourth and last time yesterday. He lost
his mind with jealousy in trying to choke me, but gave up.
Thank God. I was never so scared . . . I slept at Kim's
because I was afraid he'd come back. Today I called - she
called somebody - so he would stop calling me, or thinking we
would somehow get back together.
had once told Namiranian "one day, I'm gonna get
you. Somehow, some way, when you least expect it, I'm
gonna get you." Appellant would show up at
Namiranian's house without warning, and Namiranian
developed a significant fear of him. Neighbors also observed
him sitting in his car near her house on another occasion
before her disappearance.
phone records revealed that between April 2 and April 4, the
days leading up to Namiranian's disappearance, appellant
called Namiranian eight different times, none of which
Namiranian answered or returned. The records also revealed
that appellant did not call Namiranian on April 5, April 6,
or any other day after that.
exhibited unusual behavior and demeanor on April 5. He
reported late to work at his job at Vitran Express in
Ashland, Virginia, located off of Interstate 95.
Appellant's supervisor testified that he called appellant
between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m. that day because appellant had
not yet arrived, and appellant appeared upset and exhausted
when he finally reported at around 2:00 p.m. Additionally,
appellant's friend Carla Hargrove had attempted to call
him multiple times on the morning of April 5, but received no
answer. Appellant called her back later that night, and told
her to pretend that she had been with him during the morning
of April 5, should anyone ask her.
police wanted to speak with appellant about Namiranian, but
appellant declined the opportunity. He refused to tell the
police where he worked and then refused to meet in person.
Appellant finally agreed to talk with the police during the
afternoon of April 6. He initially denied being near
Namiranian's house on April 4 or April 5. However, once
detectives showed him his cell phone records proving he was
in that vicinity, he admitted to being around
Namiranian's house and leaving his car on her street
overnight. A forensic analysis of his cell phone revealed
that he had deleted all of his text messages to Namiranian.
Forensic technicians recovered the messages, and one message
from April 2 read "please don't see him again. Okay.
Love you very much. Love you very, very much. I'm sorry,
" suggesting appellant's jealousy of
Namiranian's current relationship. Appellant was also
inconsistent with other details from the previous two days,
providing four different times at which he had reported to
work on April 5.
police searched appellant's vehicle and found a bag in
the trunk, containing a red blanket, duct tape, and a bucket.
They also found various cleaning supplies. Further analysis
of the blanket and bag revealed a hair consistent with
Namiranian's hair color, and another hair found in the
trunk was consistent with her DNA profile. Police then
searched the car with a canine trained to detect human
remains, which sniffed the inside of the trunk and then
alerted his handler to the presence of human remains. Police
also found multiple blood stains in the trunk.
police thoroughly reviewed the cell phone records from
appellant and Namiranian and concluded that both individuals
were near or inside Namiranian's house during the night
of April 4 and throughout the morning of April 5. Both phones
had pinged off a tower close to Namiranian's house during
that time frame. Moving into the early afternoon of April 5,
both phones pinged to towers located away from her house. By
around 2:00 p.m., both phones pinged off a tower north of
appellant's home, adjacent to Interstate 95.
Appellant's pinged to the tower near his work around 2:00
p.m., and around the same time ...