A jury wants a 35-year-old James City County man to spend the rest of his life in prison for the May 2017 murder of his mother.
Following a two-day trial that ended Friday, a jury found Michael Alan Webb guilty of first-degree murder and recommended he serve life in prison, Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Green said.
Michael Webb, who was convicted of armed robbery in 2002 and spent at least a decade in prison, killed his mother, Edna Webb, 64, just two days after he was ordered to vacate her house, according to court documents.
Michael Webb represented himself during his trial, with attorney Brandon Waltrip as his court-appointed standby attorney.
Green said numerous people testified during the trial in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court, including James City County Police officers and investigations, three different DNA experts, the medical examiner and two social workers from Eastern State Hospital, where Edna Webb worked.
Michael Webb’s half-brother, who lives in North Carolina, also traveled to Williamsburg for the trial, where he testified about when he last spoke to his mother, Green said.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before coming back with a guilty verdict, Green said.
After reading the verdict, Michael Webb asked to be represented by an attorney. Circuit Court Judge Michael McGinty appointed Waltrip to represent Michael Webb during his sentencing.
Waltrip made a motion for mistrial, stating Webb was not competent to stand trial not was he competent to represent himself. Waltrip also asked for a continuance to better prepare for sentencing, which McGinty denied.
Green said Michael Webb’s brother testified a second time during the sentencing, this time asking the jury to show mercy for his brother.
“He asked for some mercy for his brother, wasn’t sure that he could forgive him, but he knows that his mother still loves him and would still not want him to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Green said.
The jury recommended Michael Webb receive life in prison.
Waltrip said he plans to appeal the decision.
“There is currently no standard in Virginia for determining when a defendant with mental illness is competent to represent themselves after being found competent to stand trial,” Waltrip said. “The proceedings on Thursday and Friday evidenced the need for the General Assembly to develop a standard by which Courts can determine when an individual’s right to self-representation should be limited, as was recognized in Indian v. Edwards, a U.S. Supreme Court case.”
Proving the case
During the trial, Green said he introduced evidence from a other cases between Webb and his mother.
Edna Webb also filed an unlawful detainer in April 2017, asking a judge to evict her son from her house. The case was heard May 15, 2017, when a judge gave Michael Webb 30 days to move out of the house.
Two days after the eviction hearing, on May 17, 2017, James City County Police were called to the Webb house, at 1877 Ferrell Drive in Grove.
Officers arrived to find Edna Webb dead on her kitchen floor. A medical examiner’s report states she died from asphyxia due to manual strangulation and suffocation, but also had blunt force injuries. Court records state her body was wrapped in a blanket secured with some electrical cord and tape.
The trespass case was also set to go to trial May 19, 2017, two days after police found Edna Webb’s body.
Green said the exact time of Edna Webb’s death is not clear, but evidence suggests she was killed sometime between 11:30 p.m. May 16, 2017, and 10 a.m. the following day.
Michael Webb is scheduled for another court hearing Nov. 19 in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court, where a pre-sentence report will be presented to a judge.
Sarah Fearing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification: The original version of this story stated police found Edna Webb dead from “apparent blunt force trauma” in her home May 17. Police released that information after a medical examiner at the crime scene opined that blunt force trauma could have been a cause of death, but a full autopsy later found she died from asphyxia due to manual strangulation and suffocation, Green said.