VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After less than two hours of deliberation, a jury of ten men and two women convicted Lamont Johnson, 45, in the 2018 death of his girlfriend Bellamy Gamboa. Later Friday afternoon, the same jury recommended a sentence of 25 years. The range on the second-degree murder charge was from five to 40 years.
When Judge James Lewis instructed the jury, he gave them the option of considering the lesser included crime of voluntary manslaughter, which would have had a maximum penalty of ten years.
Johnson confessed in late July 2018 to strangling Gamboa in their Diamond Springs Road townhouse where they lived with their 20-month-old twins. Following a police interrogation, he took detectives to a dumpster behind a Pizza Hut on S. Military Highway and demonstrated how he stashed her body inside.
It was a gut-wrenching day of justice for the Gamboa family. Johnson was convicted of her death, even though her body was never found.
“We finally achieved what we had been longing for the last four years, justice. That’s what we were looking for, and finally, she can be laid to rest,” said Bellamy’s father.
Her younger sister says it will take time to absorb just exactly how justice feels.
“We haven’t had closure yet,” said Charisse Gamboa. “We haven’t been able to… I don’t even know what the word is – move on.”
Four weeks after she disappeared, Johnson confessed in a 16-hour interrogation to strangling her, loading her body in his red Dodge Charger and then taking her to the dumpster 17 miles from their townhouse.
Her body was never found. As part of the normal disposal pickup, the dumpster contents were taken to the Wheelabrator processing plant in Portsmouth where trash is pulverized for use as fuel.
Prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 40 years, but say they were pleased with the verdict.
“I think it sends a very strong message to the defendant, that dumpsters are meant for trash, not people,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Janee Joslin.
For the first time since the trial began, the jury heard from a witness supportive of Johnson, a graduate of Deep Creek High School.
James Crockett, 36, testified during the sentencing phase. He is Johnson’s brother and described how Johnson taught him to read, write and ride a bike. He described the situation his brother was in and the crimes he committed as “shocking and just unbelievable”.
Johnson and Gamboa met at the shipping company CMA CGM about two years before she disappeared. Crockett said his brother was proud of the relationship early on. But as the jury heard several times, the two had bitter arguments over splitting the rent and Johnson alleging that Gamboa used cocaine and slept with another man.
The saga began as a missing persons case and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kate Aicher told the jury how police and private citizens spent about three thousand hours looking for her.
Johnson didn’t tell police that he had killed Gamboa until four weeks after her disappearance.
Emmanuel Gamboa testified Friday afternoon as a prosecution witness during the sentencing phase.
“You took away a mother, a daughter, and a sister,” he said, looking at Johnson seated at the defense table. “There’s nothing I can do to bring my daughter back. She was pulverized and burned.”
Johnson was also convicted of two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor because he left the twins in the home while he threw Gamboa’s body in the dumpster and hid her car in another apartment complex. The jury recommended a total of six months for the two charges.
Judge James Lewis will have the last word on Johnson’s sentence in August. He can go no higher than the recommended 25 years on the murder charge plus the six months on the delinquency charges.
The prosecution had three days of testimony and evidence, and the defense rested on Thursday without presenting any evidence or witnesses.
This article is breaking and will be updated.