FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – A former NASA executive who shot and killed his neighbor in front of his Springfield, Virginia home has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
The shooting happened in March 2020 after the two neighbors had been feuding for years. Michael Hetle, 54, hoped to convince a jury that he was acting in self-defense when he opened his front door and fired seven shots at his 24-year-old neighbor Javon Prather.
Video of the shooting, recorded by Hetle’s Ring doorbell camera, shows Prather walking from his home next door and knocking on Hetle’s front door. Hetle opens his door and immediately fires four shots at point-blank range, two in the back as Prather tumbled down the small staircase, and then a seventh shot as Prather lay helpless in the driveway.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lyle Burnham said the video revealed a cold-blood execution. Prosecutors argued that Hetle’s anger exploded after years of verbal altercations with Prather.
George Freeman, defense attorney for Hetle told the jury, in his closing statement, that Hetle was defending his home when he shot Prather in self-defense from someone he believed was a violent person.
After deliberation, the jury agreed that it was “not self-defense, that it was murder in the first degree, which is murder with malice and murder with premeditation.”
Hetle’s sentencing is scheduled on Jan. 28, 2022, and Descano said he is planning to seek a life sentence.