By: Rachel Keller
Posted: Aug 25, 2022 / 07:53 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 26, 2022 / 08:28 AM EDT
HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for the shooting death of his girlfriend, but her family is not happy about the outcome.
Eighteen-year-old Brittney Peyton, of Hanover County, was tragically taken from her family a little over a year ago.
Last week, her former boyfriend, Benjamin Newton, found out that he was receiving more prison time after the crime.
Members of Peyton’s family, like her mother Kellie Longerbeam and her older sister Ashley Bridgmon are still grieving and having a difficult time.
“I’m just a walking broken-hearted mother, to be honest with you,” Longerbeam said. “I just miss my daughter so much.”
On May 11, 2021, police arrived at the Abbington West Apartments on Beth Road in Henrico around 7:43 a.m. Officers found Peyton laying on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to the head. According to the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Peyton was found propped up against the back door. A woman in an apartment nearby heard a woman yelling between 5:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. According to authorities, the neighbor believed she heard the yelling coming from next door and possibly upstairs. The woman then said the yelling lasted for three to four minutes.
Prosecutors obtained doorbell video evidence showing a white SUV leaving the parking lot the day Peyton was found shot.
At the crime scene, detectives found a black holster laying in front of the couch in the living room and an empty Glock magazine on the coffee table. Detectives also found a cartridge case in the kitchen and damage to the rear door. They found long dark hair on the rear door and the wall.
According to the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, the detective at the scene received a call from Ronnie Newton, who is Benjamin Newton’s father. That conversation led detectives to identify Benjamin as a suspect. He was later apprehended around 8:30 p.m. the day Peyton was shot. Newton was found in a car at the Walmart on Parham Road, which is about 15 minutes from the apartment where Peyton was found dead and where the couple lived together.
He was searched and authorities found a dollar bill with brown powder on the back of an iPhone. It was tested and turned out to be 1.17 grams of heroin and fentanyl.
That night, Newton said he was not involved. He was interviewed and told Henrico Police that he went to the store next to the McDonald’s on Staples Mill Road. Newton told authorities that it was closed. He said when he arrived back to the apartment, the door was unlocked and he found Peyton near the back door.
He told police he didn’t call 911 because he was ‘freaking out.’ However, on July 19, 2021 prosecutors obtained a jail call from Newton. In the call, he stated, “I didn’t aim it at her or nothing—boom—it was [a] freak f****** accident.” In the same call, he mentioned he was the one who called police. During another call Newton implied that he accidentally shot Peyton while he was cleaning his gun. On July 22, Newton stated, “It just slipped and it slammed back and when it slammed back, it fired.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office offered him a plea deal of up to 8 years in prison. Newton accepted the deal and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and drug possession charges.
Peyton’s family is devastated and infuriated. Several family members told 8News that she had been dealing with domestic abuse and there were issues going on in the apartment.
“She didn’t deserve this,” Longerbeam said. “She deserved to have a life and go out here and have fulfillment in life and do things. She didn’t get a chance to do that.”
Peyton’s family said she was bubbly and always happy. Before her tragic death she was about to graduate high school at Patrick Henry.
Since the incident, family members have been in and out of court. The family fought to get Newton’s initial involuntary manslaughter charge brought up to a first-degree murder charge. In the end, they were not pleased with the decision to offer him a plea agreement and would have preferred for this case to go before a jury.
On Aug. 17, a judge sentenced Newton to ten years in prison with two years suspended. He now has to serve eight.
Some of the details were difficult for Peyton’s family members to hear. Her mother said she had to step out of the courtroom a few times. “It’s tough especially when we’re sitting here with 18 years worth of memories that don’t seem like nearly enough,” Bridgmon said. “In eight years he’ll be able to get out and have a job and maybe have a family, have a life. Even the simplest of things like that are like a slap in the face.”
A factor in the case that’s important to note is the delay before authorities were contacted. Newton did not call the police, but neither did the two other people who were in the apartment during the time of the shooting. According to the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, those two individuals were interviewed by authorities and told several different stories, and in certain versions, even said they were not present when the shooting happened.
Family members told 8News their pain is made worse knowing that no one called police and that Peyton was just left in the apartment.
Detectives carried out a search warrant on an apartment where Newton was staying after leaving Peyton in their apartment. Police found her silver iPhone on the couch — the SIM card had been removed.
Although Peyton’s family feels slighted by the amount of time Newton received, they plan to still fight in her honor. They have created a website for her story and continue to advocate against domestic and gun violence.