Trial date set for suspect in Dinwiddie businessman’s murder

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 7, 2018 | 1:40 p.m. 

DINWIDDIE – One of the three suspects charged in connection with the slaying of a father and Dinwiddie business owner now knows when they will head before a judge for their part in the man’s murder earlier this year.

During a court appearance this month, a Dinwiddie County judge set January 23, 2018, as the trial date for 18-year-old Jhanae Short for her role in the June 20 murder of Umar Salaam, who operated the Zoe’s Bubbles and Sudz car wash at the Shell gas station along U.S. Route and Interstate 85.

According to the Virginia Courts Information Database, Short is facing a myriad of charges in connection with Salaam’s death, including first-degree murder, two counts each of using a firearm to commit a felony and conspiring to commit a felony, along with felony robbery.

The crime dates back to later stages of the month of June when Dinwiddie County law enforcement received a report of a man lying in the roadway near Richie Avenue during the overnight hours of June 20.

The man, later identified as Salaam, was rushed to Petersburg’s Southside Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, leaving behind friends and family, including a young daughter, according to published reports.

Within days of the Petersburg father’s slaying, detectives with the sheriff’s office made a trio of arrests in the case with Short, 24-year-old Thornell Sledge, both of Petersburg, and 25-year-old Newport News resident Caleb Smith all being taken into custody in connection with the robbery and murder.

Almost a month later, Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill announced a county grand jury believed evidence presented by prosecutors was sufficient to charge all three suspects with first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy, and using a firearm to commit murder, for which all three were later arraigned on in July.

While Short has had her date before a Dinwiddie County jury place on the January 2019 docket, the two remaining suspects will return to court for pre-trial hearings over the remainder of 2018.

According to court records, Sledge will return to Dinwiddie County Circuit Court on December 5 for a pre-trial hearing, while Smith, his pre-trial hearing is scheduled for November 7 after a continuance motion from his defense team was granted by the judge.

Speaking with media prior to the trio’s first court appearance, Baskervill said she and her office are prepared to handle the responsibility of seeking justice for the Salaam family and Dinwiddie community.

“If I can honor these victims by preventing future victims, then that is an important component in seeking justice for them and in representing and serving the community and its ideals,” Baskervill said.

“As a prosecutor, I apply criminal laws which recognize and reflect the gravity of homicide,” she shared. “When I file charges for a grand jury to consider, those charges allege crimes which violate specific criminal statutes ‘in violation of the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth’ of Virginia. In addition to inflicting the gravest, most permanent damage on a victim, his or her loved ones, and his or her community, the killing of another is perhaps the most egregious way one can violate the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth. In these cases, every ounce of work by me and my office – litigating, investigating, filing charges, and so forth – is in service to the public to restore the peace and dignity that has been violated.”

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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