Chesapeake man guilty of murdering father, brother sentenced to life in prison

NORFOLK, Va. - A Chesapeake man who pleaded guilty to murdering two of his family members was sentenced Monday to two life sentences in prison, plus 23 years.

Zachary Toothman killed his father Michael and brother Matthew in their home in August of 2016.

Zachary Toothman and family

The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to each of the six charges against him, including two charges of first degree murder, and one attempted murder charge. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony.

He received the maximum sentence of two life terms for the murders and 23 years of additional time for the other charges.

On August 7 2016, police were called to his parent’s home on Helen Avenue where they found his father and brother shot dead.

Police say he also shot his mother, Susie Toothman, but she survived – leading to the attempted murder charge.

Court documents obtained by News 3 shed light on Toohtman’s mindset leading up to the killings.

According to those documents, the Virginia Tech student was placed on academic suspension and struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide.

On Monday in court his mother pleaded with the judge for a lesser sentence saying her son was not himself the day he fired the weapon and she said he was always such a good kid who would never have done this had he been in the right state of mind. She added her husband and son cannot come back no matter how long Zach is behind bars and asked the judge to take into consideration that he is all she has left.

The evidence presented at the sentencing hearing shed light on what happened that day in August of 2016. The prosecutors said Zach Toothman was home. He put on gloves, grabbed his father's duty weapon and shot his younger brother Matthew who was playing video games.

The defense asked Susie what happened next and she led the courtroom through Zach coming downstairs and shooting his father several times. She said her husband's last words were "Zach I love you so very much."

Zach then shot his mother, who said he was hit but acted dead because she feared for her life.

Susie told the court she grabbed the gun, which Zach left downstairs, as he went back upstairs to put the gloves in the dryer.

Neighbors testified, saying Susie ran out of the house and to them saying 'Zach shot us all.' The prosecutors said Zach followed closely behind her trying to case blame on his mother, asking her in front of the neighbors, 'Mom, why did you try to kill everyone?'

The neighbors who spoke said Zach seemed like a child -- white and distraught but following orders as if to please them.

When the police came, they took Zach into custody, later charging him for the crimes.

In court, the defense tried to prove that Toothman had a psychotic break and that this is not who he is. They said he was under pressure and just snapped. Special Prosecutor Paul Ebert pointed out the premeditation in the crime, which the judge agreed with. Ebert even called Zach Toothman a sociopath.

In the end, Zach Toothman addressed the court and said he does not ask for mercy from the court but said he did want to live on his days with the ability to share the memories of his father and brother with others. He said he wanted to be able to contribute to society in some way.

The judge wrestled with the sentence, it seemed, not due to the crime, but because he said there was no clear indication as to why this crime occurred. He ultimately sentenced Toothman to life behind bars.

There was a large law enforcement presence in the room, and we know that is because Toothman’s father served more than 30 years with the Chesapeake Police Department.

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