By Linda Cicoira — Evron Terrell Strand Sr. was given the prison term last week that was recommended by the Accomack Circuit Court jury that convicted him.
Judge W. Revell Lewis III sentenced Strand to 50 years in prison for felony counts in a 2017 murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the shooting of police informant Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson and his then 19-year-old girlfriend. He was also fined $202,500. The terms were set to run consecutively with none of the time suspended.
If Strand, 44, of Deer Drive in Nelsonia, lives out his term, he will be 94 years old when he is released. Lewis told him he would be on supervision for three years after that. Strand was given five years each for four counts of soliciting a murder, 10 years and a $100,000 fine for conspiracy to commit capital murder, a $2,500 fine for conspiracy to obstruct justice, and 20 years and a fine of $100,000 for attempted murder.
Defense lawyer Kenneth Singleton, of Virginia Beach, Va., asked Lewis to reduce the sentence. “Fortunately, no one was killed,” he said. “Mr. Johnson was in the hospital a relatively short time. No lasting injuries. That doesn’t make it right. There’s nothing good about it. There is another side of his private life — positive things about his life and family.”
Singleton went on to say Strand got his GED and went to the community college for three years to study industrial maintenance. “He is a very hard worker; was promoted at Perdue Farms.” He was working at the YMCA, Quality Inn, and Perdue while going to school. “He has five sons who all look to him for support, guidance, and help. He was purchasing a home. He lost his home. Family has been without him.”
Singleton noted that others who were associated with the case, got “significantly” less time. The defense lawyer wanted Lewis to reduce the terms to a total of 10 years. He said it would still be more time than anyone else involved with the crimes received at this point.
“Mr. Strand sold drugs as part of his living,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan. According to Morgan, Strand wanted Johnson to die so he wouldn’t be able to testify against him in a cocaine distribution case. Morgan said Strand owes $22,000 in child support and that cocaine was found at his home. He said Strand has a long list of convictions that began in 1992.
Strand did not make a statement when asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced.
Lewis told Singleton he is “scratching his head” because of the things Singleton said. “It’s a mystery to me that someone is obviously a hard worker (and) can wind up doing the things that you did,” the judge added. “They recommended the sentences. I am not going to say their recommendations were in any way out of line. This was a very serious matter. Talking about killing someone” to keep him quiet.
Strand was awaiting trial for cocaine distribution when Johnson and Dezarae Smith were shot while walking on Linhaven Circle, near Painter, on Halloween night. The two had just left a gathering at the home of Latisha Annetta Pepper, 32, who is now an inmate at Accomack Jail, awaiting trial on charges of possession of a firearm while attempting to sell or selling marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Cynthia Harmon, 53, of Parksley, confessed to the jury that she set up conference calls between prospective assailants and Strand via the Accomack Jail phone system. She was recently sentenced to serve a total of four years of active time in prison.
The alleged shooter, Roquan Lee’teq “Cake” Rogers, of Exmore, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy in connection with the murder plans. A jury was deadlocked on nine other counts, which included attempted capital murder. Both victims testified at Rogers’ trial that he was the person who shot them. At Strand’s trial, the young woman, who says she is no longer involved with Johnson, testified that she was going by what Johnson had said. A new jury could read the transcripts to see if it can come to a conclusion about Rogers. His attorney has argued for all the charges to be dismissed. The first jury recommended a total of 17 years in prison for Rogers but when polled, one juror said he did not agree with the suggestion.