Michaels trigger man gets 63 years

A Prince William Circuit Court judge sentenced Ralph Taylor Jr., 18, to 63 years in prison Thursday for shooting and robbing two clerks at the Michaels craft store in Woodbridge in February.

The victims were taking the garbage to a trash bin behind the store on Smoketown Road.

Taylor, of 14501 Fullerton Road, Dale City, was also convicted of shooting at another teenager in a separate incident that same evening.

Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. suspended an additional 75 years of jail time and meted out the punishment despite arguments from defense attorney William J. Baker for a lighter sentence and from Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James A. Willett who wanted life in prison.

In the last row in the courtroom, Taft Nesbitt and his mother viewed the proceedings. Nesbitt, a tall teenager sporting a Ninja Turtles T-shirt and a colorful scarf Thursday, was the only casualty of Taylor’s Feb. 18 shooting spree.

Taylor’s first shots, at 19-year-old Adam Newell’s car, buried themselves in the car door, inches from Newell but leaving him unscathed.

“He tried to do nothing less than kill two innocent young people. I think about the thousands of young people doing the right thing … and having to be exposed to people like this,” Willett told the court.

Later that evening, Taylor and two other assailants attacked Nesbitt and his friend and co-worker Mike Blanchard, 21, as they emptied trash outside the Smoketown Road store.

Taylor, Nana Kobina Owusu, 18, of 2788 Bixby Road, and Renardo Robinson, 18, of 4107 Cardinal Crest Drive, robbed Blanchard and Nesbitt of their jackets and wallets.

They then forced their victims to kneel in the parking lot by a trash bin. Nesbitt was shot in the stomach. The bullet nicked his kidney, ruptured his spleen and collapsed a lung. Nesbitt spent nine days in the hospital and months recovering.

Blanchard was only punched because one of the attackers said he “couldn’t shoot a brother.” Blanchard said during the trial that his friend was shot because he was white.

“I ask the court to picture the two victims on their knees, having complied wholly with him … His full intent, hope, desire was to kill Mr. Nesbitt,” Willett said.

Taylor was convicted as the trigger man even though neither Blanchard or Nesbitt was able to positively identify him as the person who fired the gun.

Baker also suggested his client, who was tried as an adult, was not really capable of understanding the consequences of his actions.

“If you look at his education, Mr. Taylor is a man of limited cognitive skills. He’s not very sophisticated,” Baker said. “I apologize to the victim on behalf of my client.”

“[Consider] his refusal to accept responsibility or [show] even a scintilla of remorse,” argued Willett, adding that Taylor was unable to control his behavior in jail pending sentencing.

Taylor apparently attempted to assault Owusu in the Prince William Adult Detention Center. Owusu gave evidence to the Commonwealth against Taylor although it was Robinson who testified at Taylor’s trial.

Afterward, Nesbitt’s mother said the family was “gratified that justice was served.”

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