A 23-year-old Alexandria man was found not guilty Thursday after a two-day trial on a charge of shooting into an occupied building.
The home owner, Anita Peyton, and her two daughters told a jury Wednesday that Osha Chester Collier, also known as Chester Vayacondios Collier, had fired four shots into their Woodbridge home Christmas morning.
Placed into evidence were two shell casings police recovered from the area and a photograph of a bullet hole in the owner’s bedroom ceiling.
Peyton testified that in the early hours of Dec. 25, 2002, she awoke to the sound of four gunshots. She described grabbing her three-week old granddaughter from her basinette under the window and rolling off the bed with the baby. No one was hurt, but a police officer testified that four shots were fired at the house, and three bullets were discovered in the Knoll Top Lane home. One was in Peyton’s bedroom ceiling, one in a bathroom wall, and one in the house siding.
They were fired at “places where there was testimony people slept. It is consistent with the threats,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kristina Morgan-Robinson said in closing arguments Thursday. “This defendant made the threats, this defendant followed through, and this defendant confirmed.”
Wednesday, Peyton and her two daughters testified that they received numerous phone calls the night before the attack. The caller, they said, was Collier, the father of Peyton’s grandson.
The Peytons testified that Collier called many times, threatening people in the home, claiming Peyton’s daughters had “set up” Collier. After the shooting, Collier began calling again, the Peytons said. He asked if they liked their “wake up call,” their “rude awakening.”
The evidence the Commonwealth brought against Collier was almost entirely circumstantial, that is, evidence from inference rather than personal knowledge or observation.
“We don’t have one phone record. We have to rise and fall on the testimony of the Peytons, who obviously don’t like my client,” defense attorney Raymond Morley said in his closing arguments. “They [the Commonwealth] don’t even come close. They can’t make this case.”
None of the testifying witnesses saw the person who shot into the Peytons’ home. Collier denied doing so, or calling the Peytons’ home. Collier’s aunt testified that he had spent the night at her house and not made any phone calls or left during the night.
Though acquitted, Collier remains in the Prince William County jail on unrelated charges. He was implicated in the April 2002 shooting death of Matthew Alan Ruane. Ruane, 18, was smoking outside his parents’ Dale City home with friends when he was fatally shot at close range.
Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 369-6594.