NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — After about three-and-a-half hours of deliberation, a jury found Ziontay Palmer guilty Friday on all 10 counts related to a 2021 mass shooting in the Young Terrace neighborhood in Norfolk, including three counts of aggravated murder.
Palmer was also found guilty of the malicious wounding of his then-pregnant girlfriend, Angel LeGrande, the aggravated malicious wounding of one of their neighbors and a number of firearm-related charges.
Palmer had been accused of shooting five women, with three of the victims, LeGrande’s mother Nicole Lovewine, Lovewine’s partner Detra Brown and a neighbor, Sarah Costine, pronounced dead at the scene. Lovewine and Brown were shot multiple times in their heads and torsos, and Costine was shot once in the chest, according to prosecutors.
He is scheduled for sentencing before Judge Robert B. Rigney Feb. 2 in Norfolk Circuit Court.
“Mr. Palmer has committed crimes so unbearable that they break the heart to describe,” said Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi in a statement. “Mr. Palmer shot and wounded the woman who was carrying his child, murdered two mothers in the presence of their children, murdered a good Samaritan who came to help, and shot and seriously wounded a second good Samaritan. The jury has reached the right result, and at sentencing we will recommend the sanction equal to these crimes: life in prison.”
Victims’ families told 10 On Your Side’s Raven Payne that they are pleased with the verdict and that justice has been served as they look for some needed closure.
Palmer, then 19, had been dating LeGrande and for a short time had been living at her Young Terrace apartment with LeGrande, her mother and Brown. LeGrande at the time was several months pregnant with Palmer’s child.
Prosecutors noted that the day before the shooting, Nov. 2, 2021, LeGrande had told Palmer she knew about his entertaining other women and that she was willing to raise their child with her mother and without his help. She had asked Palmer to leave, and a relative of his had picked him up.
Around 6 p.m. the next day, the same relative drove Palmer back to Young Terrance, and as he arrived, he spotted LeGrande and Lovewine and got out of the car near the intersection of Nicholson Street and Whitaker Lane and shot both women from a few feet away, prosecutors said.
Brown and Costine ran from their apartments to help the two women, and as they were trying to help them, Palmer ran up, stood over them and shot them also, prosecutors noted.
Another neighbor, 39-year-old Shazelle Dixon, ran out of her apartment after hearing the gunshots to check on her children, who had been playing outside. Palmer shot Dixson after she saw him shoot Brown and Costine, then he left the neighborhood in the direction of Brambleton Avenue, prosecutors said.
LeGrande was shot once in the shoulder, and she and her unborn child survived, and Dixon survived being shot in the face and chest, though she required multiple surgeries, including jaw reconstruction and continues to deal with nerve damage from a bullet that’s lodged in her spine, according to prosecutors.
As Palmer left the scene, he left behind his black and silver handgun and some clothing, including a brown hoodie and a pink backpack, prosecutors said, and then got into a woman’s SUV that had been parked nearby and was not successful in asking the woman seated inside to drive him away from the area.
Norfolk Police first saw Palmer moments after he was in the woman’s vehicle while he continued to head south on foot near St. Pauls Boulevard. At that point, prosecutors noted that Palmer had not yet been named a suspect but had matched one of many initial suspect descriptions.
Initially, officers did not detain Palmer after patting him down and running a background check on him — the background check came back clean.
While recovering in the hospital, LeGrande identified Palmer to investigators as the shooter, and after he was named a suspect, he turned himself into the Police Operations Center, and at that time, he was charged with three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding and five counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of those felonies.
Police were later able to recover Palmer’s pink backpack from the vehicle of the woman he asked to drive him away. Prosecutors said video evidence from Palmer’s cell phone later showed that on the day before the shooting, he was wearing the same brown hoodie and holding the same black and silver firearm that was recovered from the crime scene.
In July, the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office secured grand jury indictments against Palmer for three counts of aggravated murder — for the killing of more than one person as part of the same act — along with malicious wounding, aggravated malicious wounding, attempted carjacking and six counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of those felonies.
Prosecutors withdrew the charge of the use of a firearm in the commission of attempted carjacking after further evidence indicated that Palmer had abandoned his gun before he got into the SUV. During trial, Judge Robert B. Rigney dismissed the charge of attempted carjacking after Palmer’s defense attorney made a motion to strike.
Prosecutors during the trial urged the jury to use “common sense,” and to take into account all of the evidence leading up to their decision.
Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi said that this has been one of the most aggravated and heartbreaking cases he’s been a part of, with the amount of evidence revealed in court this week.
Palmer’s defense attorney, Eric Korslund, claimed that there was not enough scientific evidence to prove that Palmer committed the crime.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Cynthia D. Collard and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys Abigail L. Ottinger and Anthony J. Comento have been prosecuting Palmer’s case, and detectives Jemal Davis, formerly of the Norfolk Police , and Kyle D. Austin of the Norfolk Police led the investigation.