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Salem murder suspect’s charges sent to grand jury

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 11:28 AM EST
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - A judge in Salem has sent the first-degree murder charge of Zane Christian to a grand jury.

Christian is the suspect in a fatal shooting in Salem and carjacking in Blacksburg.

His district court preliminary hearing was held March 2, 2021. During that hearing, two witnesses took the stand: Emily Christian, the estranged wife of Zane and mother of his two children, and Sgt. David Cooper with the Salem Police Department. Cooper was the first officer on the scene.

Zane and Emily had arranged to meet at 2 p.m. at the Lakeside Plaza in Salem for a custody exchange. The week prior to the shooting, Zane and Emily went to court for child support. Zane was court-ordered to pay Emily $1,000 per month. Previously, Zane was paying Emily $600 per month, according to her testimony.

Emily testified when she arrived at the shopping center with Rico and Rico’s 5-year-old son, Zane was not acting himself.

“He was very short, his voice was very stern,” said Emily.

Emily says she began getting her kids into her vehicle from Zane’s, and meanwhile, Zane began circling her car, and Emily testified he keyed it.

At that time, she says, Rico got out of Emily’s car, and pushed Zane, who fell.

“Zane kinda lost his footing, and he tripped over my son’s monster trucks. It was a red container sitting on the ground with monster trucks and he tripped and fell,” said Emily.

According to Emily, when Zane got back up. he pulled a handgun from his belt and started shooting at Rico.

According to a video played in the courtroom that members of the media were not allowed to record, Rico fell to the ground.

Moments later, a crowd gathered and Sgt. David Cooper arrives.

“Due to the amount of blood on his right side I could tell that he had some arterial bleeding which can be deadly if not treated,” said Sgt. Cooper from the stand.

While Turner was still alive immediately following the shooting, he died at a hospital the next day.

Zane’s attorney argued he should not be charged with first degree as it was not premeditated, but the judge sided with the commonwealth.

One of Zane’s three child abuse/neglect charges was dropped, as it was determined in court that Zane did not have parental responsibility over Rico’s son. His two remaining child abuse/neglect charges and first degree murder charge will be reviewed by a grand jury in May. Zane also faces a carjacking charge in Montgomery County.

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