Man Accused of Murdering Four Residents Acquitted in Swift Jury Verdict

PORTSMOUTH, VA – After less than an hour of deliberation, a jury acquitted a man on Friday who had been accused of the murder of four residents in a Prentiss Park home in June 2022. Raymond Lee Gore, 58, breathed a sigh of relief as the verdict was read. Had he been found guilty, he would have faced a mandatory life sentence. Instead, Gore was set to be released from jail on Friday night.

The shooting took place at a 5-bedroom home located at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Randolph Street. The victims were identified as Davonta Georgio Lee, 30; Ashley Merricks, 34; Oleisha Deanna Mears, 37; and Samuel Jones, 66. Jones succumbed to his injuries a few days after the incident. In his statement to the arriving officers, Jones described the shooters as two young Black males, with no prior acquaintance.

Gore and his nephew, Antwann Gore, both faced charges two months after the shooting. The arrests were prompted by a tip from Michael Canty, an inmate at the city jail with a lengthy criminal history. Canty had offered to provide information about the gunmen in exchange for leniency in his own pending criminal cases. However, the charges against both Gore men were eventually dismissed by different Portsmouth judges due to inconsistencies in Canty’s statements and lack of credibility as a witness. Prosecutors proceeded to present the cases to a grand jury, resulting in the reinstatement of the charges.

Canty, referred to as the prosecution’s key witness, testified during Raymond Gore’s trial. He claimed to have witnessed the exchange between Gore and another man outside the house prior to the shooting. Canty recounted how Gore and his nephew approached the front door and that Gore shot Merricks after she answered. However, during cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Massie exposed inconsistencies in Canty’s earlier statements and his testimony in court. Canty had initially claimed to have observed a cash exchange before the shooting, but later changed his statement upon police questioning. Additionally, Canty revealed that prosecutors had aided him in other criminal cases, including reducing a robbery charge to misdemeanor assault and battery, and covering his room and board expenses.

The trial had its fair share of interruptions. During proceedings, Judge Brenda Spry noticed Canty texting on his cellphone while on the witness stand and requested to see the exchange. Canty denied messaging about the case, but the judge discovered messages revealing his concern for his own well-being while on the stand. In response, prosecutors drafted an immunity agreement to ensure Canty would not face perjury charges for lying to the court. The jury was later informed of the texts and the offer of immunity.

Despite some doubts concerning Canty’s testimony, Judge Spry allowed the trial to continue. She granted a defense request to take the jury to the crime scene, allowing them to visualize Canty’s perspective when he claimed to have seen Gore and the other men interacting outside the house. Additionally, Spry dismissed several charges against Gore due to errors in the indictments, which listed all four victims for each charge instead of one per charge.

While the outcome may have left the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office disappointed, they respect the jury’s decision and continue to support the families of the victims. Antwann Gore’s case is still pending and is scheduled for trial in June.

In conclusion, a man accused of murdering four residents of a Prentiss Park home in June 2022 has been acquitted. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before delivering the verdict, and the defendant, Raymond Lee Gore, was set to be released from jail. The charges against Gore were dismissed, partly due to inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution’s key witness, Michael Canty. However, the trial is not yet over, as Gore’s nephew, Antwann Gore, still faces pending charges that will be addressed in a later trial.