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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Great Dismal Swamp Shooter Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

NORFOLK, Va. – A Suffolk man was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for assault with intent to commit murder and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, stemming from a May 2019 shooting in the Great Dismal Swamp, a National Wildlife Refuge.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Maurice Devonte Lee, 27, had a tumultuous multi-year relationship with the victim, which escalated to the attempted murder in the Great Dismal Swamp. On May 12, 2019, Lee stopped at his parents’ house, retrieved a 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets, and hid it in his jacket pocket. Lee then lured the victim deep into the Great Dismal Swamp on the premise of having a picnic. After walking miles onto Lynn Ditch Road, Lee pulled out the firearm and shot the victim in the chest at point-blank range after accusing him of being “disloyal.” Lee threatened to shoot the victim again in the head if he told anyone what happened. After the victim begged for his life and convinced Lee not to shoot him again, Lee called 911. When the dispatcher asked how the victim was shot, Lee said that it was a “long story” and that he had been trying to shoot a bear. The victim suffered life-threatening injuries from the bullet but received emergency medical treatment and survived.

When first responders arrived to the scene, Lee continued to claim that he accidentally shot the victim because a bear was going to attack him. Once Lee admitted the bear story was untrue, he provided various versions of what happened. At trial, Lee represented himself and testified on his own behalf. The jury found him guilty on all counts. During the trial, Lee admitted to destroying evidence by throwing the victim’s phone in the swamp and wiping down the gun before first responders arrived. At sentencing, he received a guidelines enhancement for obstruction of justice, based on the Court’s conclusion that he had made false statements under oath at trial.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Edward Grace, Assistant Director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John F. Butler and Elizabeth M. Yusi prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:19-cr-106.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Public Affairs joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated June 30, 2020