The 12-member Fauquier County Circuit Court jury that found Myison I. Ellis guilty on Thursday, March 5, in the shooting death last August of Lincoln Williams Jr., recommended a prison term of 38 years for first-degree murder, three years for use of a firearm in committing a felony and 10 years for conspiracy to commit robbery.
Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. will make the final determination on sentencing following completion of a pre-sentence report. The sentence will be announced on May 7 at 9 a.m.
“I’m pleased with a verdict. We wanted to achieve this for the family” of the victim, said Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Hook, outside of the courtroom. The case was prosecuted by Abigail Owens and Amy Cassandra, senior assistant prosecuting attorneys.
“I believe he is innocent but I respect your decision,” defense attorney Jessica N. Sherman-Stolt said in addressing the jury after they delivered a verdict shortly after 2 p.m. and before they considered a sentencing recommendation. She asked the jury to recommend a minimum sentence on each count.
Owens told the jury that at age 18, Williams’s life was cut short while “the defendant has lived more than twice his age.” Ellis is 39 and the father of two children. Williams’s parents, who both testified during the trial, “lost a son in a terrible, violent way. They have to live with that the rest of their lives.”
Though Williams “made some bad choices and was involved with things he shouldn’t have been involved with, he loved football and loved his friends and had his whole life ahead of him,” Owens said.
Ellis was accused of going to the Williams home to rob the victim of money or drugs. Williams, who lived with his parents and younger brother on Old Auburn Road near Warrenton, was shot once in the face during the altercation. He managed to get inside the home before collapsing in front of his parents, but died later that night.
The victim’s mother, Crystal Williams, told the jury before they adjourned to consider the verdicts, “that night our whole life was flipped upside down.” They will no longer share Christmas or family visits or hear “I love you” from him anymore. He was “18 years, two months and one day old” at the time of his death, she noted.
“Our lives will never be the same,” Crystal Williams said. “His murder has damaged the family in a way I hope we can come back from.”
Lillian Scott said that Ellis is her only child.
“We’d like to extend my condolences to the family,” Scott said, speaking of the Williams family. “I have prayed for them as well as my child.”
Daniel Martin Farmer II of Nokesville is due to return to court the week of March 9 on the same charges that Ellis faced in connection with the Feb. 26 shooting. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify when called to the stand during Ellis’s trial on Wednesday.
Lucretia Robinson of Manassas faces a charge of conspiracy to commit robbery in the same incident.
The jury heard from witnesses for three and a half days before deciding to convict Ellis on all charges. The trial opened Monday morning in Fauquier County Circuit Court.
Prosecution witnesses during the trial implicated Ellis in a plot to rob Williams. They maintained that Ellis shot Williams in the face when he resisted.
The defense claimed that Ellis was not involved, did not own or use a gun, and was not connected to the scene of the murder by any physical evidence. Sherman-Stolt said that the only evidence against her client was the word of the alleged co-conspirators, who are also charged in the crime. She pointed out that investigators never found the murder weapon.
The jury received the case following closing arguments from Owens. She said that Ellis, 39, of Waynesboro, should be found guilty.
Whisenant told the jurors that their decision must be unanimous on each of the three charges: first-degree murder, use of a firearm in a felony and conspiracy to commit robbery in this case.
Day two of the trial
Robinson testified on Tuesday, March 3, that she drove Ellis to the Williams’s home on Old Auburn Road and that she saw him with a gun.
“Ellis opened the door and said, ‘I’ll be right back,’” Robinson said.
“While he was gone, did you hear anything unusual?” Owens questioned.
Robinson replied, “I heard a car pull up behind us. After a period of time I heard a gunshot,” about 15 to 20 minutes after their arrival.
She said Ellis was carrying a backpack when he returned to the car. “To my knowledge he was still carrying the gun,” Robinson said.
Robinson testified that Ellis told her, “If he hadn’t fought back, I wouldn’t have had to pop him,” referring to Williams.
Robinson also testified that during the drive back, Ellis threw two items out the car window -- one was a shoe and the other, “by its shape was a gun.”
Robinson said that the items were dropped in the Linton Hall Road-Sudley Road area in Prince William County, but when investigators searched the area, nothing was found, according to testimony Tuesday by Fauquier Sheriff’s Office investigators assigned to the case.
Investigators did find cocaine and an “owe sheet,” a list of drug customers, in Williams’s room, it was revealed during the trial.
Daniel Martin Farmer II of Nokesville was described in testimony as the person who came up with the idea of robbing Williams.
Testimony for the defense
Ellis took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday. He was in a relationship with Karen Farmer, Daniel Farmer’s sister, that he said started after he met her on July 7, 2019. Karen Farmer is pregnant with his child, he believes. “I gave her the benefit of the doubt,” that he was the father, Ellis said. He said he had hoped that she would move to his home in Waynesboro with her other two children.
Ellis said he started a new job on Aug. 29 after being unemployed for a time due to a back injury. He said he also had sold a vehicle and gave some of the money to Karen Farmer. Ellis’s testimony, in response to his lawyer’s questions, seemed to be aimed at undercutting the prosecution’s claim that he needed money and had a motive for attempting to rob Williams.
Ellis’s previous criminal record was raised in court as well. He said he served six years in prison on a drug trafficking charge. He said he had also been charged, but not convicted, on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
About his relationship to Daniel Farmer, Ellis testified, “I’ve never spoken to Daniel about planning a robbery … I didn’t talk to him, hang with him or talk with him on the phone.” He added, “I didn’t go anywhere with Daniel that night.”
Ellis said he doesn’t own or use a gun. He said, “I could get five years [in prison] just being in a car with someone with a gun,” because of his prior felony conviction.
“I did not shoot Lincoln Williams Jr. or anyone else,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he turned himself in to authorities when he saw news media reports that he was being sought in Williams’s death.
As part of Ellis’s defense, the jury also heard testimony from Michael Turner -- Daniel Farmer’s cellmate at the Fauquier County Adult Detention Center. Turner testified that Farmer told him that “I killed someone but I’m going to say somebody else did it. I didn’t want to kill him, but he reached for the gun and I shot him.”
Farmer took the stand but invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when Ellis's attorney attempted to question him. He was excused from the witness chair.
The night of the shooting
Ellis said he thinks he went to his mother’s house in Manassas at about 9:55 p.m. on the night of the killing, went to a 7-11 and then to the house in Nokesville where Karen Farmer and her two children lived with her brother and mother. Daniel Farmer and Robinson were there at the time, Ellis said.
The victim’s father, Lincoln Williams, Sr., testified Monday that his son left home at 9:50 p.m. to go to the Walmart in Warrenton. His son texted him that he was on his way home and at 10:11 p.m., Lincoln Williams, Sr. heard a device that activates when someone comes up the driveway.
Williams Sr. and his wife Crystal testified on Monday that their son had a bloody face and was pleading for help when he came inside the family home. The father said he thought at first his son had been punched in the mouth before the severity of the wound became clear.
Williams Sr. said that his injured son said "Rude Boy" before he was taken away by paramedics. Rude Boy is Daniel Farmer's nickname.
Cassandra characterized the shooting as “an ambush.”
A medical unit transported the 18-year-old victim to Fauquier Hospital, where he died from what was determined to be a gunshot. Dr. Gene Maya, assistant chief medical examiner for Virginia, testified on Tuesday that Williams died from a single gunshot that tracked downward from his left eye socket.
Investigators described blood found on and inside a truck in the driveway of the Williams family’s home on Old Auburn Road near Warrenton and on an adjacent fence. A shell casing was also found, according to testimony.
Karen Farmer testified on Tuesday that Ellis was wearing different clothes when he came back to her house in Nokesville on the night of the killing and that “I noticed he was upset.”
She testified that she asked him why and after a while he said, “he pistol-whipped him (Williams) to get him to give up drugs or money. Things got out of control. There was a tussle in the yard and after that, he said he just shot him.”
Ellis’s mother, Lillian Scott, testified that her son came to her house in Manassas between 10 and 10:30 p.m. on the night of the shooting. She said he showered and changed clothes. (She said her son keeps clothes at her house.) She said Ellis was “sad” that evening because Karen Farmer was due to report to jail to begin a sentence (for a probation violation in Culpeper). Ellis’s mother said she saw him again the next morning.
“When my son was implicated, I knew that wasn’t possible because he was at my house,” Scott testified.
Owens said in her closing argument that Karen Farmer testified that her brother was looking for someone to rob and that the victim had more than $800 in his wallet when he was shot.
“Robinson testified that the defendant had a gun with him and that he told her he popped the victim because he fought back,” Owens said.
“No one has said Daniel Farmer is innocent. Everybody testified that he played a role. He recruited someone to help him.” That person was Ellis, she said.
But Sherman-Stolt reminded jurors that her client “had a lot of things going for him. He was not going to put himself at risk … no gun was found, no fingerprints or direct physical evidence linking my client to the crime.”
In her final words to the jury, Sherman-Stolt also referred to Williams’s “dying declaration that Daniel Martin Farmer shot him.”