Jonathan Cornelius Seward was sentenced last week to a total sentence of 85 years for the March 3, 2018, assault and murder of Lawrence Leon Thomas Jr. and wounding of Timothy Hunt at a home on Kinsley Talley Road. In a plea agreement reached in February, Seward agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges of second degree murder, malicious wounding, felony abduction and felony unlawful wounding.
Seward had originally been charged with murder in the first degree, felony attempted capital murder, aggravated malicious wounding, felony abduction and felony unlawful wounding. Three of the charges carried life sentences.
The attack took place at around 11 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, 2018. Authorities were dispatched to the home after someone reported “bodies lying on the ground.” Arriving on the scene, Mecklenburg County deputies Sgt. Brent Evans, Josh Watts and Tyler Duncan discovered two seriously injured men, Timothy Hunt, 52, of Boydton and Lawrence Leon Thomas Jr., 50, of Brodnax, lying in the yard of the residence. Thomas passed away at the scene from head and neck trauma shortly after officers arrived. Hunt was transported to VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill and later to MCV in Richmond with serious injuries.
Following an investigation, Seward was taken into custody in Macon, North Carolina, and charged with being a fugitive from justice in relation to an outstanding felony warrant from Mecklenburg County for the malicious wounding of Timothy Hunt.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Nash called only one witness on Wednesday, Jeffrey Thomas, first cousin of Lawrence Thomas. Thomas told the court that he and Lawrence Thomas had been more like brothers than cousins and that the two had grown up together.
“Lawrence Thomas would do anything for anybody,” said Thomas. “Everyone loved Lawrence and Lawrence loved everybody.”
Thomas told the court that the murder has hurt the entire family. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him,” said Thomas. He added that it bothered him that Seward seemed to have no remorse for the crime. “He came into court with no remorse,” said Thomas. “He walked in with a smile on his face.”
“This has hurt three families,” said Thomas. “It really hurts but we’ve got to forgive him. My Bible tells me we’ve got to forgive him.”
Defense attorney Michael Trent asked the court to consider Seward’s previous mental problems which included depression and hearing voices.
While Nash said that he did not disagree with the mental issues, he did say that the level of malice and injuries caused had to be considered.
“He took two lives on March 3,” said Nash. “It was absolutely horrible. The level of savagery and brutality, the lack of human decency. He talked about what he did after the beating,” said Nash. “He picked up a well cap and dropped it on Lawrence’s chest and head.”
Nash added that after the assault, Seward had urinated on the victim then poured bleach and Lysol on him because, he said, Seward believed those things would destroy any DNA on the victim.
“That speaks to what kind of person Seward is,” Nash said.
Nash said that Seward has a long list of assault cases on his record, lists his vocations as landscaping and selling drugs and is also a registered sex offender.
“He has checked just about every box conceivable under the judicial system.” Nash added that even since being in jail, Seward has shown his violent side, being charged with another assault while incarcerated.
Telling Judge Andy Nelson, “This is one of the most brutal homicides I think your honor will ever see,” Nash asked for a sentence of 85 years.
Defense attorney Trent disagreed, saying that Seward had been fighting a war inside himself. Although Trent said he felt the medical professionals had “done the best they could,” for Seward, he felt this case shows the broken mental health system in the Commonwealth. He added that the record shows that when Seward had been on his medications he had “done well.” Unfortunately, said Trent, when he could not afford his medications, his condition deteriorated.
Trent asked the court to factor the mental health issue into its final determination and asked for a sentence near the lower end or middle point of the sentencing guidelines.
Judge Nelson asked Seward if he wanted to say anything before sentencing. Quietly, Seward replied “no.”
Nelson said that he had considered a number of factors, statements and evidence presented and called the crime “horrendous.”
“The victim was killed in a vile and brutal manner,” said Judge Nelson, also commenting on the injuries and suffering of Hunt. “There’s no excuse for that, Mr. Seward, none at all.”
Judge Nelson sentenced Seward to 40 years on the second degree murder charge with 20 years suspended, ten years on the attempted murder charge with five years suspended, ten years on the abduction charge with all time suspended and five years on the shooting-stabbing charge for a total sentence of 85 years with 50 years suspended for a total active sentence of 35 years.
Judge Nelson noted that Seward would be about 70 years old when released.