Cheriton Man Found Not Guilty of Murder in Death of Harold Moses

Credit: Ron West | Eastern Shore Post

A Northampton County Jury deliber- ated well into the night Wednesday and concluded that Trawn Levan Stratton was innocent on all counts stemming from the death of Harold Moses on the evening of August 28, 2010.

Stratton faced charges of first-degree murder, murder during the commission of a burglary, and use of a firearm.

Two days of testimony began Monday when Accomack Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones promised the jury in his opening statement that evidence would show that Stratton planned to confront Moses about a mu- tual girlfriend, Quadrina Ellis.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Eric Korslund contended that it was Moses who had set a trap for Stratton and had attacked him with a field-hockey stick once he reached Ellis’ home that evening. In the ensuing struggle, according to Korslund, Stratton was forced to defend himself with the gun he carried. Stratton was treated at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospi- tal for a head wound, which was closed with several stitches.

Northampton County Sheriff’s Investigator Sgt. Michelle Hallett testified that the room in which Moses was found dead showed signs of a struggle, with furniture in disarray and blood splattered in several locations. She said evidence indicated that the front door had been kicked and two .40-caliber shell casings and a bloody field- hockey stick were found near the body.

Dr. Elizabeth Kinniston, an assistant medical examiner from Norfolk, testified that the victim died as the result of two gunshot wounds, one to the abdo- men and one to the groin area. She not- ed that the wounds fractured the pelvis and caused extensive bleeding from the aorta and spleen. Dr. Kinniston said she recovered two .40-caliber bullets from Moses’ body and they appeared to have been shot from very close range.

Denise Meyers with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science testified that tests of the DNA from bloodstains found at the scene determined that the blood was Stratton’s, not Moses’.

Forensic scientist Robert Hart testi- fied that the residue found on Moses’ gloves showed that the gunshots had been fired from one inch or less.

Day two of the trial began with Northampton County Deputy Sheriff Roger Pike testifying that when he arrived following the shooting, he found Moses dead on the floor. Pike said Stratton was not there.

Jones played the recording of the 911 call made by Ellis following the shooting at her home. Ellis informed the dispatcher that a man had been shot at her home and the shooter had left.

Testifying about the night of the shooting, Ellis said she had been at a party and had seen Stratton briefly. She testified that she and Stratton had been in a relationship for approximately 13 years, but she had ended it in February of 2010 and later began to see Moses. Ellis said that on the evening of the shooting, she left the party about 8:30, picked up Moses, who lived near Cheriton, then drove him to her home, where she was with him for approximately two hours.

Under cross-examination, Ellis stated that when she picked up Moses, he was wearing gloves and carrying a field-hockey stick, which he normally did when he walked along the railroad tracks. Ellis testified that when she prepared to return to the party to pick up her children and to take Moses back to Cheriton, she left her home from the front door and locked it behind her. Moses was still inside and was planning to go out the back door. Ellis said she did this whenever Moses, who was married, was at her home so neighbors would not know he was there. Ellis said that as she went to her car, she saw Stratton come around the side of her home, carrying a gun and then she heard a loud crash which she assumed was the front door being broken in. She testified that she heard what sounded like a scuffle inside the house, followed by two gunshots, then re-entered the house and saw both men on the floor. She said Stratton got up and kicked Moses, who was still facedown on the floor. Stratton then left the scene, Ellis said. She told the court she called her sister and 911 to report the shooting.

Hallett was recalled to testify about the interview she and investigator Raymond Gunter had conducted with Stratton. The entire interview was recorded and played for the jury. During the interview, Stratton said he did not go to Ellis’ home with the intent to harm anyone and he was not aware that Moses was there.

Phone records introduced as evidence showed that Stratton had attempted to call Moses and Ellis repeatedly that evening, but had not reached them. Questioned about carrying a gun to the home, Stratton replied that while he did not have a permit for it, he always carried one for his protection as he lived in what he described as a dangerous location. He said he had it in his waistband, not his hand, when he arrived at Ellis’ home. Stratton said he did not break down the door; it was open a crack and he saw Moses inside. He said he and Moses began to fight and Moses struck him in the head with the field-hockey stick, after which he shot Moses in self-defense. Stratton went on to state that he left for his mother’s home in the Bayview area and on the way, tossed the gun out of the car.

Later that evening, Stratton was seen at the hospital Emergency Room, where he received stitches for his head wound.
Hallett testified that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to locate the gun, but it was not found in the area where Stratton had indicated he had disposed of it.

The defense did not introduce any witnesses, but asked Judge Patricia L. West to dismiss the charges as Jones had not proven that the home was broken into and no evidence had been introduced that showed premeditation on Stratton’s part. The judge denied the motion.