David Hoyle Jr.

FRONT ROYAL – A town man charged in a 2017 homicide recently pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a potential life prison sentence.

David Glynn Hoyle Jr. stood charged with first-degree murder and a related firearm charge in the March 27, 2017, shooting death of 58-year-old Warren Howard Ramsey in the house they shared at 208 Grand Ave.

Hoyle faced a jury trial scheduled for this week. A conviction of first-degree murder carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. However, an agreement reached between Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna L.K. Hammond and Hoyle’s lawyers, Public Defender Timothy S. Coyne, and Ryan L. Nuzzo calls for the defendant to plead guilty under Alford v. North Carolina to second-degree murder, as amended in the original indictment. A defendant who enters an “Alford plea” maintains his or her innocence but pleads guilty because he or she does not wish to risk a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

A conviction of second-degree murder calls for a maximum punishment of up to 40 years in a state penitentiary.

The agreement limits the time Hoyle would spend in prison – and the punishment the prosecutor could seek – to 17 years. The defendant can argue for a sentence below the 17-year cap. The court would determine the total sentence and the terms of Hoyle’s probation upon release.

Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. accepted the plea agreement and scheduled Hoyle’s sentencing for May 10, Circuit Court Clerk Daryl L. Funk said by phone Monday.

Hoyle remains held without bond at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna L.K. Hammond said Monday she would not comment on a pending case. Hammond would not say if the victim’s family was consulted about the plea agreement. Some judges ask the prosecutor if a victim’s family was consulted. Hammond said Athey did not ask this question.

The agreement also calls for the court to dismiss, at the prosecutor’s request, the remaining charge of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. A conviction of the firearm charge carries a mandatory minimum punishment of three years in prison.

Hoyle walked into the living room and shot Ramsey, identified in court documents as his step-father, multiple times on March 27, 2017, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. Emergency medical service providers responded and pronounced Ramsey dead at the scene. Police took Hoyle into custody without incident, the complaint states. Police recovered a handgun from the scene. Detective Landin J. Waller states in the complaint that Hoyle confessed to shooting Ramsey.

A judge previously dismissed Hoyle’s unrelated misdemeanor assault charge. The judge granted a motion from the commonwealth’s attorney to dismiss the charge. Authorities charged Hoyle with assault after he and another inmate at the regional jail were involved in a physical altercation June 18, 2017.

Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com