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Press Release

Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Drug Related Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Hampton man was sentenced today to life in prison for use of a firearm resulting in death, drug conspiracy, attempted possession with intent to distribute ecstasy, and felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

“Damontaze Tillery is an admitted gang member with a history of violence,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “As a previously convicted felon, Tillery was prohibited from possessing a firearm when he murdered Javon Stephenson during a drug deal. Together with our law enforcement partners we are targeting areas where firearms and the drug trade are fueling violence and endangering the safety of those communities. I want to thank the prosecutors who brought this matter to trial, the ATF and the Newport News Police Department for their outstanding work on this case.”

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Damontaze Montrell Tillery, 24, arranged a trade of a firearm for ecstasy, provided by victim Javon Stephenson. In July 2018, Stephenson travelled from Virginia Beach to downtown Newport News to conduct the transaction with Tillery. During the trade, Tillery murdered Stephenson. Stephenson was unarmed and still in possession of ecstasy when he was found in his vehicle. The victim’s foot was still on the gas pedal when he was found, causing the tires to spin until a bystander turned the vehicle off. An off-duty Newport News firefighter responded after seeing the smoke coming from the vehicle, and upon approaching the vehicle, realized Stephenson had a gunshot wound to the chest. Stephenson was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Firearms in the hands of criminals and anyone with violent intentions create a major threat to our communities,” said Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Washington Field Division. “This defendant’s callous behavior not only threated the safety of citizens in Newport News, but led to a loss of life. ATF and our law enforcement partners remain committed to stopping violent crime and bringing criminals to justice.”

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; Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Washington Field Division; and Steve R. Drew, Chief of Newport News Police; made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa R. McKeel and Howard J. Zlotnick 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. 4:19-cr-031.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Public Affairs

Updated January 8, 2020

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime