A Nitro man was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole Tuesday afternoon in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Juan Xavier Chic was convicted of first-degree murder in December 2019. A jury found that Chic was the gunman in the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Andre Leonard in August 2018.
Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit also sentenced Chic, 30, to 10 years for use or presentment of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and three years for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.
Leonard’s parents and grandmother addressed the court prior to sentencing. Leonard’s father, Andre Nazario, looked directly at Chic as he told him to take responsibility for his actions.
Chic maintained his innocence during the sentencing. He turned around to address Leonard’s family and said he was sorry for their loss but that it wasn’t him who killed Leonard.
Nazario told Chic to stop worrying about Leonard’s family, “because you don’t care about that,” and apologize for what this trial did to Chic’s own family, who sat quietly behind him during sentencing.
“Look what you’re doing to them,” he said. “It’s not fair to them.”
Chic will have the opportunity to appeal the conviction at a later date.
Prosecutors said Chic drove a silver Chrysler 300 with a woman to Elm Street, in Institute, and parked behind a white Nissan sedan driven by Torrion Betts on Aug. 15, 2018. Leonard was Betts’ passenger.
Leonard fathered two children with the woman traveling with Chic that day.
Leonard was shot and killed as he and the woman approached one another to exchange money for the woman to take the children shopping for school clothes.
Chic’s attorneys argued he and the woman were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and State Police picked Chic as a suspect and built a case around him, failing to pursue other suspects, including Betts.
Two witnesses who lived along Elm Street at the time testified they saw a white vehicle speed away from the scene, but they never saw anyone they would identify as the shooter.
Investigators never recovered a murder weapon. Two guns that were recovered in the investigation belonged to Leonard and the woman who was with Chic.
Phillip Cochran, a firearms and ballistics analyst with the State Police, testified that neither the woman’s nor Leonard’s guns matched the bullet recovered from Leonard’s body during his autopsy.
He said bullet holes in the rear of the Nissan matched the caliber of bullet recovered from Leonard’s body, and bullet holes in the front of the Chrysler matched the caliber of the gun found next to Leonard’s body.
Korri Powers, a trace evidence analyst for the State Police, testified that she tested the Chrysler and Nissan for gunpowder residue, and she found a small trace of residue in the driver’s side door of the Chrysler Chic had been driving.
Powers said she only was asked to test the vehicles as well as the woman who was with Chic, and she didn’t find any evidence of residue on the woman or in the Nissan driven by Betts.
The woman who was with Chic that day testified she initially lied to investigators because she’d just watched Chic kill Leonard, and Chic threatened to kill her and her children if she told anyone.
After she was arrested and incarcerated at South Central Regional Jail, the woman said her mother filed for custody of her daughters. After talking with her sister, the woman said she reached out to investigators and told them Chic was the person who shot and killed Leonard.