ELYRIA — A three-judge panel will consider execution as a possible sentence for Vincent Jackson Jr., who gunned down Qiana Walton during a 2008 robbery of the Elyria gas station where she worked.
Lorain County Common Pleas judges James Miraldi, John Miraldi and Mark Betleski found Jackson, 33, guilty of aggravated murder with capital specifications that carry a possible death sentence during a hearing Wednesday. Jackson already had pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in the case, but because it is a capital case the judges had to review evidence to determine whether they should accept the plea.
Jackson also had refused to plead guilty to the specifications, forcing prosecutors to present evidence showing that Walton was killed during an aggravated robbery — one of several other charges Jackson has already pleaded guilty to — and that Jackson pulled the trigger to prevent her from identifying him.
“It has been a long time, six years,” Walton’s father, Robert Walton, said after the hearing. “It’s over, but it’s not over.”
Jackson will be back in court April 1 for a hearing in which his lawyers will try to convince the judges to spare him and impose a life prison term.
“We’ve got a strong case for mitigation and we’re prepared,” defense attorney Dan Wightman said as he left the Lorain County Justice Center, although he and fellow defense attorney J. Anthony Rich declined to discuss specifics.
Janata Walton, Qiana Walton’s mother, said after the hearing that Jackson is only thinking about himself.
“It seems like he’s been wiggling and squirming trying to get out of paying for what he’s done,” she said.
The judges will be able to consider Jackson’s guilty plea in the case as a sign of remorse when they deliberate on whether he deserves death.
And while defense attorneys will do their best to present Jackson in a sympathetic light, prosecutors will try to portray him as a killer who deserves the ultimate punishment.
Jackson had completed an eight-year prison sentence in Illinois about a month before he robbed Gas USA shortly after midnight June 14, 2008. He was incarcerated in Illinois for shooting a man in the head during an argument, although the victim in that case survived.
Jackson’s sister, Aja Jackson, who worked with Walton at Gas USA, testified during a brief trial Tuesday that Jackson had only moved to Elyria about two weeks before the robbery.
Video evidence in the case showed Vincent Jackson in the store in the days leading up to the robbery, including one instance in which Qiana Walton waited on him.
In a graphic video of the killing played multiple times during the trial, Walton re-enters the store she had closed moments before with Jackson, armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, behind her.
Jackson demanded that Walton silence the store’s alarm and that she give him money. Prosecutors argued that Walton complied with all of Jackson’s demands, including filling a black plastic bag with about $12,000 in cash.
The video shows Jackson step back, aim the rifle and fire a single shot into Walton’s head, dropping her instantly to the floor. He then called Walton a “bitch” and fled the store but was arrested several hours later following a brief standoff with police at his sister’s nearby home.
Although the courtroom was packed with Walton’s friends and family Wednesday, no one showed up to support Jackson.
Qiana Walton’s father said that once the family left the courthouse, they would head to his daughter’s gravesite to tell her the verdict. Robert Walton said the family still misses Qiana and thinks of her every day.
Janata Walton said she wants closure in the case.
“We just want our daughter to be able to rest in peace,” she said.