NEWPORT NEWS – A jury on Thursday convicted a former US Postal Service postman of all charges in the murder of a co-worker’s husband exactly one year earlier.
After a three-day trial, the Newport News Circuit Court jury found Jeremy Todd Pettway, 41, guilty of first degree murder, conspiracy and firearms in the murder of Salahud-Din “Sal” Ibn Shabaz, 39 years old.
Shabazz was shot inside the front door of his Menchville home on April 7, 2021, with prosecutors saying Pettway knocked on Shabazz’s door and then fired when he responded.
Prosecutors said the murder stemmed from a feud between Shabazz’s wife, mail carrier Jacquie Shabazz, and fellow mail carrier, Tashara Jackson.
Jackson was convicted of first degree murder and related charges in March and will be sentenced on June 24. This week’s trial was Pettway’s second, after a precedent ended in a hung jury.
Shabazz, a father of five, was a US Army veteran who worked as a forklift operator. One of his sisters, Aesha Shabazz, 45, of Spring Lake, North Carolina, said the family was delighted with the jury’s decision.
“The guilty verdict came on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, so that was pretty profound for us,” she said Friday after her three-day return to Newport News.
The shooting was the culmination of a long-running argument between Jacquie Shabazz and Jackson, who worked together at a Newport News post office. Among the issues, according to trial evidence, was the extramarital relationship Jacquie Shabazz had with a postman whose wife was good friends with Jackson.
Prior to the shooting, Jackson and Jacquie Shabazz had several verbal and physical altercations. Shabazz admitted at trial that she punctured Jackson’s car tires after an argument in March 2021. Days later, Shabazz’s SUV was vandalized while the family was out of town.
On April 6, the Shabazz went to a local restaurant, Harpoon Larry’s, planning to face Jackson. Witnesses said Sal Shabazz pointed a Taser to ward off the others as the women fought in the parking lot and kicked Jackson during the altercation.
Worried about the repercussions of the fight, Jacquie Shabazz and the couple’s four daughters checked into a motel in York County that night, while Sal Shabazz – who had been drinking – stayed home.
Jacquie Shabazz testified that she was on the phone with her husband around 2 a.m. when someone knocked on the door. He went to answer, she said, and she heard a few short words, followed by gunshots. Four casings were found nearby.
Prosecutors Andrea Booden and Jacqueline Donner of the Newport News Commonwealth Prosecutor’s Office claimed that Jackson and Pettway went to the house to respond to the fight in the restaurant.
At trial, prosecutors relied on GPS data showing the movements of Jackson and Pettway’s cellphones, which were turned off as they approached the house. Prosecutors also used surveillance footage from traffic cameras, schools and homes showing what appeared to be Jackson’s SUV heading towards Menchville, stopping at the Shabazz residence, then driving away with its headlights off. .
In text messages after the shooting, Jackson said Pettway had been there for her and “didn’t hold back,” and said they were “Bonnie and Clyde forever,” a reference to the infamous crime couple in Hollywood. era of the Great Depression.
Pettway then texted Jackson saying the police searched his house but couldn’t find his gun because he gave it to another postman friend. Officers later find the gun under this woman’s bed.
Pettway’s attorney, James Ellenson, has denied his client killed Shabazz, saying Jacquie Shabazz wanted her husband killed because of marital issues – she had previously accused him of domestic assault – and to be with the man with whom she had an affair. A small amount of bullet residue found on his hand the night of the murder was suspicious, the attorney claimed.
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The prosecution disputed these theories, presenting expert testimony that trace amounts of bullet residue can fall on the hand of someone who is in a police cruiser or at police headquarters. Jacquie Shabazz was in both places talking to officers after the shooting.
Prior to trial, Circuit Court Judge Gary Mills barred Ellenson from arguing that the man Shabazz’s wife was having an affair with had shot Shabazz. Although Ellenson raised this theory at Pettway’s first trial, Mills felt there was insufficient evidence to bring it up again.
Booden said Mills also excluded from evidence a slew of sexually explicit text messages between this man and Jacquie Shabazz, even though the messages were permitted at the last trial. The change, Mills said, was due to Jacquie immediately admitting to having sex this time rather than calling the man a “friend” as she did in the last trial.
The jury took about three hours between Wednesday and Thursday to find Pettway guilty on all counts. He faces life in prison when sentenced on July 15.
Aesha Shabazz said it was shocking that postmen had “all this time to do all of this”, citing interoffice relations during a pandemic. The only person who was not employed by the Postal Service, she said, “was the one who lost his life.”
“What’s the work climate there that led to something like this, right?” she says. “We are and always will be devastated.”
Pierre Dujardin, 757-247-4749, [email protected]