A 12-person jury has begun deliberations in the double murder trial of Brian Kuang-Ming Welsh.
Welsh, 41, is charged first-degree murder in the Jan. 29, 2018 shooting deaths of Mala Manwani and her adult son, Rishi Manwani. The two were found dead in their Aldie home two days later with a combined dozen gunshots wounds through their heads. According to testimony from witnesses during the four-week trial, Welsh had visited with Rishi the morning of the killings and at one point possessed a gun that forensics experts later matched with the shell casings found at the crime scene. Other evidence, however, showed that those experts didn’t consider all possibilities and that detectives didn’t investigate thoroughly enough.
Circuit Court Judge James P. Fisher instructed the jury to determine whether Welsh should be found guilty of the first- or second-degree murders of the Manwanis and whether he should be found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of the felonies.
To find Welsh guilty of first-degree murder in either or both deaths, the jury will have to unanimously determine that Welsh killed Rishi and Mala, that he did so with malice and that he did so willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. If the jury finds Welsh killed the Manwanis and did so with malice—but did not do so willfully, deliberately and with premeditation—it will have to find Welsh guilty of second-degree murder in either or both deaths.
Although the jury may convict Welsh on circumstantial evidence alone, Fisher told the jury that “suspicion or probability of guilty is not enough” to convict Welsh.
As Acting Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Barry Zweig and Welsh’s defense counsel, Thomas Walsh, presented their closing arguments to the jury Wednesday, one theme stuck out: that the killings were spurred by a desire for drugs and money.
Zweig painted the picture that Welsh, in his desire to feed his drug addiction, shot and killed Rishi around 10:30 a.m. Jan. 29, 2018, after seeing him with prescription pain pills, which Welsh was going to purchase, and at least $3,000 of cash in his hand. Zweig said Welsh then went upstairs to kill Mala “because he had to.” Zweig pointed out that Welsh had known Rishi for only eight months and that he had taken $22,000 out of his retirement fund in a 12-month span to purchase drugs.
Walsh refuted claims that the Manwanis were killed around that time, or even on Jan. 29 at all. He emphasized that Welsh was busy using his phone around the time prosecutors claim the Manwanis were shot; Zweig and Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Shara Krogh presented evidence that the last unread text message on Rishi’s phone came in at 10:23 a.m. and the last email Mala sent her co-workers was at 10:31 a.m.
Zweig also leaned on evidence presented by forensics expert Cara McCarthy that the .22-caliber Browning Buck Mark gun found in Welsh’s father’s possession was the gun that fired the bullets that killed the Manwanis, but the barrel found on that gun did not match the shell casings. McCarthy testified that the barrel had been changed out on that gun, but the shell casings found at the crime scene were all fired from the same barrel.
Zweig said Welsh “orchestrated the disappearance, disposal and destruction of” that barrel, which was never found.
“Brian Welsh murdered Rishi Manwani using that Buck Mark pistol and Brian Welsh murdered Mala Manwani using that Buck Mark pistol,” Zweig told the jury.
Walsh suggested McCarthy’s examination of the gun and shell casings was inadequate, noting that McCarthy said she felt there was a “high certainty” that the Buck Mark’s firing pin matched the shell casings but that she couldn’t say for sure whether or not there might be other guns that have a closer match. He pointed out that the gun was manufactured in 1990 and had undoubtedly been disassembled dozens of times since then.
Zweig stood behind McCarthy’s testimony, saying that she didn’t “go searching for evidence” to frame Welsh.
Walsh claimed Zweig and Krogh were “bookending” the incidents of the case by creating a timeline of events and presenting evidence—and excluding other evidence—in a way that depicted Welsh as the shooter.
“They’re set on that guy,” Walsh told the jury as he pointed at Welsh.
Walsh claimed investigators didn’t look at the evidence presented that Rishi had scrapes and bruises on his face a few weeks prior to his death, which Walsh suggested could have come from a person whom Rishi owed money—Walsh emphasized that Rishi dealt drugs to different groups of people. Walsh said investigators also didn’t check for fingerprints on the video gaming controllers found in the basement where Rishi was found; Deputy Gregory Thomas testified he saw the basement television turned on when he found Rishi’s dead body in the vicinity Jan. 31, 2018.
Walsh said investigators also didn’t do enough with Rishi’s wallet, which was found on his chest with no money inside but with DNA that matched a person involved in a 2000 case in James City County. Walsh said investigators should have followed up with the individuals involved in that now-21-year-old case.
Walsh also said investigators didn’t test the bloody fingerprint found on the French door next to Mala’s body. Zweig said investigators didn’t test that fingerprint because it belonged to Mala.
Walsh also leaned on an argument that investigators ignored testimony from a witness who testified she saw a man with dark complexion, about 6 feet tall and broad shoulders standing in the Manwani’s backyard with Rishi’s Pitbull on Jan. 30, 2018. Walsh pointed out in the trial that Welsh is a man of smaller stature.
“That ruins their case,” Walsh said.
Zweig said the witness “made a mistake” in her testimony and labelled Walsh’s claims of investigators disregarding evidence as being a “red herring,” used to distract the jury from the ultimate truth.
While Walsh said the prosecutors were “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” Zweig stood behind the evidence he and Krogh presented.
“Mr. Welsh is a square peg in a square hole,” he told the jury.