Ex-Franklin County sheriff’s deputy Agee Slated to Plead Guilty in ex-wife’s Slaying

A former Franklin County sheriff’s deputy charged with fatally shooting his ex-wife during a Memorial Day 2011 crime spree is scheduled to plead guilty today to that killing and to other offenses, according to online court records.

former Jonathan Ashley Agee, 33, had been set to proceed Jan. 22 with a nine-day trial on charges of first-degree murder, using a firearm to commit murder and three counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle.

Early Thursday, a plea hearing was added to Agee’s online record for 12:15 p.m. today. The plea listed is guilty and the duration of the hearing is estimated at just a half-hour.

Prosecutors in the case and defense attorney C.J. Covati both declined to comment on the agreement until after today’s hearing.

On May 30, 2011, Agee was charged in Roanoke with shooting and killing his ex-wife, Jennifer Agee, after they had a midday meeting at the Sheetz convenience store on Williamson Road. One of the couple’s two young daughters was present at the scene but was not injured.

At a hearing in April, Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell turned over to Agee’s defense team video footage taken from the dashboard camera of Agee’s patrol cruiser, which he was driving that day.

“It basically captures the shooting at Sheetz,” Caldwell later said.

In the months that followed that incident, investigators examined text messages that had been exchanged between Jonathan and Jennifer Agee, which detectives said might reveal a motive for murder.

A search warrant filed in Roanoke Circuit Court in August 2011 said Agee’s current wife, Julia Angell, told investigators she had overheard “very heated” telephone arguments between the former spouses. Angell also said Jennifer Agee had sent her an electronic message that claimed there was “an ongoing relationship” between herself and Jonathan Agee.

Later that month, search warrants showed Virginia State Police detectives had seized two vials of anabolic steroids and syringes from a basement safe in Agee’s Boones Mill home, specifically TC 300, a synthetic form of the hormone testosterone.

Anabolic steroids, which are illegal without a prescription, can help generate body mass but can also induce mood swings and so-called “‘roid rage.”

During the months prior to the shooting and his arrest, Agee “grew to the point of having to get all new uniforms,” according to a state police search warrant.

In mid-December, Agee filed a motion in Roanoke Circuit Court requesting $14,000 from the court in order to appoint an expert witness, a professor of psychiatry from Harvard Medical School, to testify about possible links between steroids and violence.

“The issue of steroid abuse and its impact on Defendant’s behavior will be a key component in his defense,” Agee’s motion read. “One of the elements that the prosecution must prove for first-degree murder may be negated by evidence of voluntary intoxication.”

But Roanoke Circuit Court Judge Charlie Dorsey denied that motion, citing the fact that Agee had previously met the qualifications to be assigned a public defender but had later retained a private attorney paid for by his father.

First-degree murder in Virginia carries a maximum sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Both Agee and former Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt were named in a wrongful death suit filed by Jennifer Agee’s estate, a case that was settled in May with an agreement that the Agees’ two daughters will receive $900,000. Attorneys for the estate said then that Jonathan Agee had not been a party to the settlement.

Hunt also went to trial in September in Franklin County General District Court on charges he mishandled warnings he received just before the shootings: calls from Angell that an armed, enraged Agee was on his way to Roanoke, reportedly to kill his ex-wife.

Hunt was found guilty of a misdemeanor offense, fined $500 and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence. He is appealing the conviction and will take his case to the county’s circuit court in March.

Agee is also charged in Montgomery County with shooting and wounding Virginia State Police Sgt. Matthew Brannock later that day.

Online court records showed Thursday that case is slated for trial the first week of March.

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