A jury found Jonathan Wade Ellington guilty Thursday in the road rage death of an Athol woman.
Vonette Larsen’s husband and daughters – who watched as the 41-year-old was run over and killed by Ellington in a New Year’s Day confrontation – stared straight ahead as the verdict was read.
Ellington was found guilty of second-degree murder of the hairdresser and aggravated battery against each of her two daughters.
His fiancée, Ann Thomas, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as the verdict was read, then left the courtroom and sobbed uncontrollably before vomiting in a nearby bathroom.
She blamed the prosecutor and defense attorney for the guilty verdicts, as well as the entire judicial system.
“This is just a redneck railroad,” Thomas said.
Larsen’s family declined to comment on the verdict, but Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen said “it was the right thing.”
Sheriff’s Detective Brad Maskell, the lead investigator in the case, said the jury “saw the truth in the case.”
Maskell said the crime was one of anger and Ellington wasn’t acting in self-defense or fleeing in fear when he ran over Vonette Larsen.
“This is a case that’s about anger,” Maskell said. “It’s about road rage and it’s about a man defending his family.”
He said he hoped the case would make drivers think twice before losing their temper.
Authorities said Ellington killed Vonette Larsen in a fit of road rage. The incident began earlier that morning as an altercation between Ellington and Larsen’s daughters, 21-year-old Jovon and 18-year-old Joleen.
Jovon Larsen testified that Ellington allegedly got out of his Chevy Blazer at one point and punched her car window.
Joleen Larsen called 911. The sisters pulled over and waited for a sheriff’s deputy, who arrived and then left to look for Ellington.
Joel and Vonette Larsen came to meet their daughters and also went to look for Ellington.
The parents spotted Ellington and followed him. They lost him and when they next saw him, he was being followed by their daughters.
The chase ended at Scarcello Road, where Ellington allegedly drove his tire on top of the hood of Jovon Larsen’s car. Joel and Vonette Larsen got out of their car.
In court, Joel Larsen said that he watched as Ellington drove toward and then over his wife.
Maskell said he believed it was the testimony of the three eyewitnesses to the crime – Larsen’s daughters and husband – that sealed the verdict.
“I think their testimony provided powerful evidence of what took place,” he said.
Juror Kelly Erickson said jurors were split when they began deliberations Wednesday afternoon. Nine jurors felt Ellington was guilty and three were leaning toward not guilty, Erickson said.
The atmosphere inside the jurors’ room was tense, she said.
“I feel like he was in a state of rage,” Erickson said. “He consciously made the decisions that resulted in the tragedy … I don’t want him out on the roads. I do not want to see him on the streets.”
Juror Paula Rhoads said Ellington had also been drinking too much the day of Vonette Larsen’s death.
“I think I did the right thing,” she said.
Ellington’s public defender, Anne Taylor, couldn’t be reached for comment following the verdict.
As she escorted a handcuffed Ellington from the courtroom, she said she hadn’t decided whether the verdict will be appealed.
Thomas, his fiancée, said “they better appeal.”
“He’s been misrepresented from the get-go,” Thomas said. She questioned the fairness of the court system, particularly the fact that Ellington’s charges changed three times.
“The judicial system here in this state is outrageous,” she said. “It went from Murder 1 to involuntary manslaughter to Murder 2.”
She said she’s sorry Vonette Larsen died, but that Ellington shouldn’t be blamed.
Thomas and Ellington have a 4-year-old son, Alex, whom Thomas said continues to ask where his dad is. She said she’s been lying to him for the past nine months, saying Ellington is at work.
Janice Bronson, a friend of Ellington’s who owns the Athol property he lived on, said she blames the media for unfairly portraying Ellington as a menace.
“He’s a poster child for road rage and it’s not even road rage,” she said.
Though Joel Larsen declined comment immediately following the verdict, he stopped by a pair of news reporters outside the courthouse a short time later.
He suggested someone look into Ellington’s criminal background, which he described as extensive and violent, and write a story about his past.
“That will open some eyes,” he said, as he walked away with his daughters.
Ellington’s sentencing was set for Nov. 17.
He faces a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison for second-degree murder and up to 15 years for each count of aggravated battery.