Prosecution rests in trial of Portsmouth man charged with killing 1-year-old

Posted at 5:24 AM, May 09, 2017

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The prosecution rested its case Monday in a trial for the murder involving a one-year-old victim.

Police say on June 27, 2015 a man knocked on the door of a Maple Avenue home and said he wanted to buy drugs. Police say soon after, two more men entered the home with guns and demanded money. Arrest warrants say a woman and several children locked themselves in a back bedroom while bullets started coming through the door.

One-year-old Dion Loften Jr. was shot in the head and killed during the attempted armed robbery. An adult woman was also shot during the incident and survived.

Three 18-year-old men were charged with 1st degree murder, aggravated assault, felony use of a firearm in commission of a felony and attempted armed robbery.

Jerry Atkinson, Anthony Holley and Marquis Hinton were arrested shortly after the incident.

Holley and Hinton both pleaded guilty to the charges last year.

Atkinson's trial began on May 9th. He is charged with murder, attempted robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

During day one of the trial, the prosecution called several witnesses including Nikita Hayes, the mother of one-year-old killed. She sobbed on the stand while talking about the night Dion Loften Jr. was killed in his own home and was asked to identify the blanket she used to apply pressure to the bullet wound to his face.

The defense poked holes in Hayes' testimony on cross examination, saying her story did not match up to her testimony from the preliminary hearing back in November. At times Hayes became hostile towards the defense.

During day two of the trial, the prosecution called several members of the Portsmouth Police Department and also Sarah Sutton to the stand. Sutton testified that she too was shot the night of June 27 2015 by Atkinson. During cross examination, the defense also pointed out inconsistencies in her story today vs what she said during the preliminary hearing. Sutton explained that she was on medication for her injuries and may have gotten details wrong during the preliminary hearing.

During day three of the trial, the prosecution planned to finish calling their witnesses. However, due to technical problems the day ended with the first witness, Anthony Holley. Holley pleaded guilty to his involvement in the crime last year. According to the prosecution's opening statement, Holley would tell the jury Atkinson was holding a gun and fired several shots on June 27, 2015. However, once on the stand, Holley said Atkinson was at the Maple Avenue home, but was not holding a gun and was not involved in the planning of the attempted robbery. The prosecution said they were shocked by Holley's change in story. They attempted to disprove his claims by playing a portion of an interview with Holley and police taken shortly after the incident. Due to technical problems, the Prosecution was unable to play the interview. Ultimately the judge decided to postpone  the rest of Holley's testimony until Monday.

Monday, May 15th marked day four of the trial. During the first half of the day, the prosecution recalled Anthony Holley to the stand. Holley told the court Atkinson was there the night of the attempted robbery, but says he was not involved in the plan and was not holding a gun. During the defense's cross examination of Holley, Atkinson's attorney, Andrew Sacks brought up the plea agreement between Holley and the Prosecution. Holley says he pleaded guilty to several charges and was told that if he cooperated he wouldn't face anymore time than 34 years and two months behind bars. Since Holley did not testify to what he previously told the prosecution (that Atkinson was involved in the plan and was holding a gun) he now faces as much as three lives sentences for crimes. Holley told the court he only told the prosecution what they wanted to hear and that today he was telling the truth.

The prosecution finished calling their witnesses which included several members of law enforcement, another witnesses who was inside the home the night of the incident and a man who says he served time with Atkinson in jail. He told the court that Atkinson admitted to him in the cell that they shared that he was involved in the robbery plan.

The court took a lunch break once the prosecution announced that they were resting their case. Outside of court, tensions ran high between Atkinson's family and Dion Loften Jr's family. An argument erupted outside of the courthouse, bailiffs had to break up the argument.

The defense is scheduled to start calling their witnesses at 2 p.m. Monday.


Third person arrested in death of one-year-old boy in attempted robbery