By Linda Cicoira — It took an Accomack Circuit Court jury about two hours Friday to convict Evron Terrell Strand, 44, of Nelsonia, of seven felony counts in a murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the shootingg of a police informant and his girlfriend in October 2017.
At about 4 p.m., the panel returned to the jury room to deliberate sentences for each conviction that they would recommend to Judge W. Revell Lewis, who presided over the trial. Strand was found guilty of four counts of soliciting a murder, conspiracy to obstruct justice, attempted capital murder for hire, and conspiracy to commit capital murder for hire. He was awaiting trial for distribution of cocaine when the incident occurred.
He wanted someone dead so he could continue to sell his poison, Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan told the jury. Defense lawyer Kenneth Singleton requested the panel give the minimum of 45 years making Strand about 90 years old when his terms would be served
Look for more details in next Friday’s edition of the Eastern Shore Post.
By Linda Cicoira — Evron Terrell Strand Sr. was her partner in love and crime. That’s what Cynthia Harmon told the jury at Strand’s murder-for-hire trial Wednesday in Accomack Circuit Court where she contended she was testifying against him in hopes of getting a reduced sentence for herself and “because it is the right thing to do.”
Wearing a white jail jumpsuit, the 52-year-old Parksley woman walked over from the Accomack facility, where she’s been an inmate since November 2017, stepped up into the witness box, and reported Strand ordered the death of a Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson, the police informant who snitched on him.
Harmon admitted to selling drugs and setting up three-way calls between Strand, while he was incarcerated, and several others whom he asked to kill Johnson.
Harmon said after Johnson, and his girlfriend, were shot in the Linhaven area of Painter, on Halloween night 2017, Harmon was instructed by Strand to pay $1,000 or a “stack” for the attempted hit.
Harmon testified that she and her son, Debrandon Harmon, met one of Strand’s contractors, Aaron Bowens, at Walmart in Onley. She gave her son ten $100 bills which he took down a store aisle to Bowens, while she waited in another part of the store.
Debrandon Harmon, 30, testified he had sold drugs he obtained from Strand, before the defendant was arrested for cocaine selling. The witness said the nine ounces of cocaine seized from the house he shared with his mother and other family members did not belong to him. He is not allowed to speak to his mother as a condition of his bond. Debrandon Harmon is the only suspect charged with the plot to be given bond. He said he earned the $700 police confiscated from him at his jobs at Perdue and Hardee’s, not by selling drugs.
Strand’s trial started Tuesday and was continuing at press time Thursday with hours of additional testimony anticipated from prosecution witnesses. Strand, 44, of Deer Drive in Nelsonia, pleaded not guilty to 16 charges including four counts of soliciting first-degree murder, capital murder by a prisoner, obstruction, drug/gang conspiracy, and malicious wounding. He is being held in the Eastern Shore Regional Jail.
Cynthia Harmon testified she has known Strand for at least a decade and was aware he was married, so she didn’t visit him while he was incarcerated at Accomack Jail. That was the way he wanted it while he was awaiting trial for cocaine distribution in 2017.
She tried to be content talking to Strand on her cellphone every day. Cynthia Harmon admitted to sometimes connecting Strand to third-party calls so he could arrange the murder. She said he told her without Johnson’s testimony, there would be no drug case against him.
Debrandon Harmon said he talked to Strand about Johnson when his mother passed the phone to him.
Johnson, 30, and his then 19-year-old girlfriend, Dezarae Smith, were shot while walking in the Linhaven Circle area. Johnson said Roquan Lee’teq “Cake” Rogers, 19, of Benjamin Banneker Road in Exmore, shot him and Smith. Rogers is accused of taking the job at Strand’s urging for revenge for Johnson testifying against his brother Akeem Markiese Rogers, 27, of Madame CJ Walker Lane in Exmore, earlier in October 2017. Akeem Rogers was convicted of drug offenses. Smith said she recognized Roquan Rogers as the shooter when his trial was held. She changed her testimony Wednesday, saying she was going by what Johnson had said and that she didn’t know he was an informant until after the shooting. They are no longer in a relationship.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan suggested she was afraid because Rogers brothers’ father was in the courtroom and had been sitting behind her. At Roquan Rogers’ trial, Judge W. Revell Lewis told another unidentified man to stop intimidating Smith during her testimony.
Johnson was shot in the back and buttock. Smith was hit in the ankle.
Defense lawyer Kenneth Singleton asked for the trial to be moved to another location because of the amount of press coverage the shooting gained. “It’s easy to assume he is guilty,” Singleton warned the jury. “It’s okay to assume watching television shows …But it’s not okay for the jury. You guys are the judges in this case … you are the deciders.”
Deshawn Drummond, 28, of Savageville, said he worked at New Ravenna, in Exmore, as a water jet operator. He also admitted to selling cocaine, which he sometimes bought from Strand before the defendant was arrested. Drummond pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a plea bargain with Morgan who dropped conspiracy to commit murder charges. Drummond said he could be sentenced to five years in prison but was hoping for less time in exchange for his testimony.
Drummond testified Strand called him about a dozen times from the jail, using street language and code to urge him to kill Johnson with promises of a car and money. “At first he said whatever I needed and pick a car out of his yard,” said Drummond. “I made no attempt … I didn’t try to do no murder.” The witness said he was friends with Johnson and used to give him rides to work.