HARRISONBURG — A Rockingham County judge denied an attorney’s request Thursday to delay the trial of a Harrisonburg man accused of an October 2017 killing at a city hookah lounge.
Wesley Cruz, 29, is charged with first-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the death of Miguel Angel Meza Ramirez.
A three-day jury trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 30.
Cruz’s attorney, Hunter Jackson, requested a postponement so he could finish listening to jail phone calls his client made.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst opposed the delay, saying that Cruz is the reason the trial has been delayed so far.
“He fled the state and had to be brought back,” she said. “He was on the run for nine months.”
She also suggested that Cruz was logging dozens of hours of phone calls knowing attorneys would have to spend time listening to them.
Judge T.J. Wilson agreed with Garst’s suggestion.
“The delay is being caused by your client by insisting on spending hours and hours on the telephone,” he told Jackson.
As a way to avoid delaying the trial, Wilson said Jackson can spend additional funding for an investigator to help with listening to jail recordings.
The investigation into Cruz began just after midnight Oct. 8, 2017, when Harrisonburg police were dispatched to the now-defunct Vibe Bistro and Hookah Lounge on South Main Street.
When police arrived, they found 20-year-old Ramirez in the parking lot suffering from a gunshot wound.
Ramirez was pronounced dead a short time later at Sentara RMH Medical Center.
Prosecutors say Cruz and the victim began arguing inside the bar. When Ramirez left, they say, Cruz followed him to the parking lot, where Cruz shot Ramirez in the chest.
Police haven’t said what the dispute was about or whether Ramirez and Cruz knew each other.
Cruz was captured in Orange County, New York, on June 26, 2018, by the U.S. Marshals Service’s Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force. Harrisonburg police say they received a Crime Solvers tip the day before alerting them to Cruz’s whereabouts.
He was extradited to Virginia on July 26, 2018, and has since been held without bond at Rockingham County Jail.
Two other people were charged in connection with the slaying.
Keane Alestock admitted he drove Cruz to Alexcia Calloway’s house following the shooting. Alestock, 27, of Mount Clinton, was at the hookah lounge when the shooting occurred.
Prosecutors say Alestock and Cruz were friends.
Police arrested Alestock five days later in Harrisonburg. On Feb. 22, 2018, Alestock pleaded guilty in Rockingham County Circuit Court to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. As part of a plea deal, Wilson sentenced Alestock to five years in prison with 2½ years suspended.
Alestock must testify against Cruz, according to the plea agreement. Prosecutors say Alestock led them to the weapon used in the crime, a .45-caliber Kimber handgun that was found on Cecil Wampler Road.
Calloway, 31, of Penn Laird, faces the same charge as Alestock. Prosecutors say she drove Cruz to New York on the night of the slaying.
Prosecutors say Calloway, who was dating Cruz at the time, also expressed interest in testifying against Cruz.
She’s set to appear in Rockingham County General District Court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 24.