Second suspect in 2018 murder of Dinwiddie business owner convicted

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: July 3, 2019 | 9:53 a.m.

Caleb Smith

DINWIDDIE – Just over a year after a Dinwiddie business man’s murder, the second of three suspects charged in connection with his death has been convicted for their role in the June 2018 slaying.

Following a two-day trial, a jury found Newport News resident Caleb Smith guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, and using a firearm in the commission of a felony this week, making him the second suspect to now face a lengthy prison sentence following the death of Umar Salaam, who operated a car wash at the Shell gas station near the corner of U.S. Route 1 and Ritchie Avenue in Dinwiddie County.

Court records show two additional felony conspiracy counts were dismissed against Smith during this week’s trial.

Salaam was found in the roadway near his business along Boydton Plank Road during the overnight hours of June 20, 2018. The Petersburg resident and father later died from his injuries. Within days, Dinwiddie detectives found and arrested Smith, along with Thornhill Sledge, and Jhanae Short in connection with Salaam’s murder.

Earlier this year, Short entered an Alford plea to charges of second-degree murder and felony robbery, meaning, while not pleading guilty, they acknowledge that the evidence likely to be presented by Dinwiddie Commonwealth Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill is likely strong enough that a jury would find them guilty. 

According to court records, as part of her Alford plea, the Commonwealth has formally dropped, or declined to prosecute two counts each of using a firearm to commit a felony and conspiracy charges. She is expected to return to Dinwiddie County Circuit Court later this month for a pre-sentencing report.

Sledge, the third suspect in this case, is expected to go on trial beginning August 15 as part of a two-day trial.

The next phase for Smith is sentencing and, according to court records, he will return to court in August for a pre-sentencing report. Currently, he faces 20 years to life in prison.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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