A Baltimore man faces a sentence of up to life in prison after Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Jeanette Irby today found him guilty of first-degree murder.
Kelvin Forde fatally shot his wife, Ruby Forde, on a secluded Loudoun road on March 11, 2014, her 55th birthday.
Irby handed down her verdict after hearing three days of witness testimony for the prosecution and defense.
County prosecutors said Forde planned the shooting, becoming upset after being told a day earlier about his wife’s plans to file for a marital separation and to travel with her family to visit other relatives in Jamaica. Their witnesses include Ruby’s co-workers and family members, along with forensic science and firearm experts.
They also presented video footage of Forde in an interview room with two detectives. The video shows Forde explaining what happened, but remaining unresponsive to the majority of questions about why he killed his wife.
The defense sought to lessen the charge against Forde to manslaughter or second-degree murder, arguing that Forde shot Ruby in the heat of passion, without advance planning. Forde’s daughters and brother took the stand to testify on his behalf. When asked if Forde ever explained why he shot Ruby, one of his daughters testified that he was unable to explain it, and would cry from time to time.
Forde did not take the stand during the trial.
A key hurdle for prosecutors was proving Forde’s actions were premeditated. Among their evidence was that Forde retrieved his gun, a 9mm Glock with 17 rounds in the clip, from his storage unit just before he drove Ruby to Loudoun.
“The defendant was going to make sure that Ruby did not go to Jamaica,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Meredith M. Burke said.
The defense stood by the heat of passion argument, relying on witness testimony stating Forde was pleading for Ruby not to leave. They argued that Forde had a fear of abandonment, and was overcome with emotion at the time. Forde’s attorneys agreed that the killing may have been intentional; however, it was not done with malice—a legal distinction between manslaughter and first-degree murder.
Judge Irby ruled that the evidence supported a conviction on first-degree murder. She stated that he had intended to kill her when he pulled off Rt. 15 onto the secluded cul-de-sac. “You wouldn’t find it unless you knew it was there,” she said. In terms of whether it was premeditated, Irby ruled that it was, saying Forde had thought about what he was going to do.
The judge also ruled that the killing was malicious because of the use of a deadly weapon. Irby said Forde was a man who asserted control over his wife, and the last act of that control were the fatal shots to her head.
A sentencing hearing is expected early next month. The murder conviction comes with a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. Forde also was found guilty of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, which carries a mandatory three-year term.