Zachary Burkard was an eighteen year old from Virginia who would murder two people over a social media beef. According to court reports Zachary Burkard was involved in an argument over social media with two high school students, 16-year-old Calvin Van Pelt and 17-year-old Ersheen Elaiaiser that escalated out of control. Zachary Burkhard would go over to a home in Springfield Virginia where he would fatally shoot both teens. This teen killer would be arrested and when it was time for court he would be found not guilty of murder and guilty of manslaughter. When Zachary Burkard is sentenced in December 2022 he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison
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A teenager was found guilty of manslaughter Monday in the shooting deaths of two high school students at a Springfield, Virginia, home last year, and ambulances responded to the courthouse when a victim’s mother and another relative collapsed in apparent shock over the verdict.
A Fairfax County jury found Zachary Burkard guilty of two counts of manslaughter, one count in the death of 16-year-old Calvin Van Pelt and the other for 17-year-old Ersheen Elaiaiser’s death.
Burkard, who was 18 at the time of the killings, was found “not guilty” of murder, a verdict that surprised and upset the victims’ families.
Elaiaisar’s mother collapsed on the courtroom floor right after the victim’s father gave his impact statement during a sentencing hearing that immediately followed the verdict.
“The pain will never go away,” Elaiaisar’s father said. “He didn’t deserve to die.”
A second relative of Elaiaisar collapsed at another point in the day, and medics took them away in an ambulance. Their condition is unknown at this time.
Van Pelt’s father, Michael Winfield, tearfully told the court, his son was his best friend
“It’s hard every day trying to take care of my kids,” Winfield said. “Knowing my son was shot in the back for a fist fight … for a fist fight.”
Van Pelt was the oldest of seven children.
The Van Pelt family gave the following statement:
“Although we disagree with the verdict, we thank the jury for their service. There is some consolation in knowing that some degree [of] justice has been served. We continue to grieve for our son, Calvin, who was a bright light in our family. We pray that no more families have to endure the agony of losing a child to gun violence.”
During a sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued for the maximum recommended sentence of 10 years for each manslaughter charge.
“Even with this punishment, the defendant will have an advantage that Ersheen and Calvin never will: He will have a life,” the prosecutor said.
But defense attorneys asked the jurors to impose a five-year term. They argued Burkard faced significant trauma in his life and said he was born to a drug-addicted mother before he was adopted.
When Burkard was 6 years old, the family was hit by a drunk driver and his father died, his attorneys said. Burkard saw his dead father at the crash scene and he had to undergo years of therapy and medication, they said.
Defense attorneys showed a photo of Burkard as a boy with the caption “A boy worth saving,” as they asked jurors for leniency.
Jurors will return to court Tuesday to determine a sentence.
Burkard testified last Tuesday, and told the jury he opened fire on April 25, 2021 because four teens had just beat up his friend and he was afraid they were all armed. He said he fired in self defense.
Elaiaiser was shot twice in the chest and Van Pelt was shot once in the back at a home in the 8000 block of Winding Way Court, prosecutors said. Both teens died.
Burkard showed little emotion when he took the stand, but said “no!” when asked if he meant to kill Elaiaiser.
He said he was in an ongoing dispute with Elaiaiser and was at his friend Nick’s house when he heard the 17-year-old was coming to the house with three others.
“I was scared. They said they would kill us. I was not prepared for this at all,” Burkard told the court.
Burkard admitted he had been dealing drugs and had taunted Elaiaiser in a video, which was shown to the jury.
He testified he was in a basement room when he heard his friend Nick get into a fight out in the garage.
“I opened the door. I was not planning to shoot anyone. I saw Nick on the ground with four people around him,” Burkard said. “I raised the gun and I told them to get back. Nick looked like he was unconscious. I raised and dropped the gun several times. Then, Ersheen started racing toward me. I thought he would pull out a gun and shoot me. I was terrified.”
On cross examination, Burkard admitted he made two videos in which he threatened Elaiaiser with guns and said the teen would be 6 feet under if he tried anything.