Commonwealth v. Rodney Gene Startz
Pulaski County Circuit Court
Case Numbers CR06-545 and CR06-770
Case Presented by K. Mike Fleenor, Jr.
First Degree Murder, Serving 75 years.
In February, 2007, an employee of Walmart in Fairlawn Virginia called 911 to report that there had been a shooting in the store. When police arrived they found Donna Angelo, a WalMart employee laying in the main aisle in a pool of blood. Several witnesses had seen her estranged boyfriend come into the store and confront her as she worked the checkout aisle. Other witnesses heard the gunshot and saw him walk out of the store. It was soon determined that the shooter was Rodney Gene Startz.
Authorities found him barricaded in his home in the city of Radford. Ultimately after several hours Startz surrendered. While being transported back to the New River Valley Regional Jail, Startz made the comment, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” After a preliminary hearing in Pulaski County General District Court and an indictment returned by a Pulaski County Grand Jury, the case was set for a jury trial. Shortly before trial began, Startz pled guilty to 1st degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a murder.
However, before the Judge could impose a sentence Startz filed a motion to withdraw his plea of guilty. He claimed that just prior to the shooting he had stopped taking Lexapro, an anti-depressant, which had been the cause of his shooting the victim. Numerous hearings were held and expert opinions were obtained on this issue. Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor consulted with a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who advised that the withdrawal of Lexapro would not have resulted in such a violent act.
Ultimately Judge Robert Turk denied Startz request to withdraw his plea of guilty and ordered a sentencing be held. At the hearing, Fleenor called several of the victim’s family to testify about the victim impact in urging the Court to impose a life sentence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court imposed a sentence of 75 years in prison. Startz is currently serving his sentence at Wallens Ridge State Penitentiary.
Southwest Times article: http://www.southwesttimes.com/2008/10/archive-2635/