By Joe Beck
FRONT ROYAL -- A shooting case that started out with an 18-year-old Front Royal man charged with attempted first-degree murder ended Monday with the defendant sentenced to three months in jail after a key witness backed away from statements he gave earlier to authorities.
Joseph John Andrews, 18, of 735 McGeath Farm Lane, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor firearms charges and was sentenced to three months in jail by Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp. Andrews is facing four additional months in jail -- a total of seven months - stemming from a separate arson case that was filed in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court while he was still a minor.
The shooting case involved accusations that Andrews fired several shots during a dispute at a May 26 outdoor party at the home of John MacDonald, 762 Old Dam Road.
The prosecution dropped a charge of attempted first-degree murder at a preliminary hearing in August after admitting the case had been weakened by changing stories from MacDonald and other witnesses.
Authorities say MacDonald ordered Andrews to leave the party after a while. MacDonald was trying to forcibly remove Andrews when the defendant pulled a gun and fired it several times before getting in a vehicle and driving off. Authorities said several witnesses reported hearing several more shots fired as Andrews left.
In an interview later in the day, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Layton said MacDonald had second thoughts about the story he gave sheriff's deputies who interviewed him after the shooting incident.
Layton said MacDonald had been drinking and ran away when he saw the gun raised but was unsure if Andrews was firing at him.
"In the cold light of day, he did not think he remembered it correctly," Layton said of MacDonald.
Layton said the prosecution also could not prove with certainty that the shots witnesses heard upon Andrews departure came from his vehicle.
The juvenile case involves Andrews and two other defendants who were arrested more than a year go and linked to a fire at an unoccupied residence at 5795 Strasburg Road.
Authorities say the three entered the house and used lighted cardboard to find their way through the darkened structure. The fire started when one or more of the defendants dropped the cardboard, according to court documents.
The other two defendants, Cody Robert Shuck, 20, of 509 Hupps Hill Court, Strasburg, and Brittany Renee Kines, 20, of Forest Hill Road, Front Royal, are serving one-year probation sentences.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org