SALEM, Va. — A Virginia man is accused of tracking his estranged wife and children to a busy shopping center Monday and gunning down the woman’s fiancé, authorities said.
Zane Chandler Christian, 25, of Christianburg, was arrested by U.S. marshals the following morning in Ravenswood, West Virginia, nearly 200 miles from the scene in Salem. Christian was initially charged with malicious wounding, reckless handling of a firearm and three counts of child neglect.
Christian’s two children witnessed the shooting, as did victim Rico Turner’s son, according to family friends. His fiancé, Emily Franklin, is also pregnant with the couple’s first child.
A felony murder charge was added to Christian’s charges after Turner, 27, died Monday night, according to the Salem Police Department.
A news release from the department stated that Turner, Franklin and the children were in the parking lot of Lakeside Plaza in Salem shortly before 2 p.m. Monday when gunfire erupted and Turner was shot.
“Turner was still alive when officers arrived on the scene, and he was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries,” the news release said. “Early Monday night, the Bedford resident succumbed to his injuries.”
Court records obtained by WSLS 10 in Roanoke indicate that Turner and Franklin both identified Christian, her estranged husband, as the shooter. They were able to provide his name, date of birth and social security number.
The couple also identified a black BMW that was seen 30 minutes later at a shopping center near the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, the documents said. According to Blacksburg police officials, Christian carjacked a driver at gunpoint and fled in the victim’s vehicle.
It was not clear where Christian was between the time of the carjacking and the next day, when he was arrested in Ravenswood, but court documents indicate that he was active on Snapchat during that time.
He threatened to hurt others in the brief videos, WSLS 10 reported.
“Sgt. Miller has personally observed a recent Snapchat video where this user posted a video talking about sniping people,” a search warrant obtained by the station stated.
Christian remained in the West Virginia Regional Jail on Friday awaiting extradition.
Witnesses to the fatal shooting told the Roanoke Times that it looked like Turner was loading groceries outside Kroger when he was mortally wounded. The three children had already been loaded into the car.
“It looked like they were just a normal family trying to get their grocery shopping done and go home,” Justin Simpson told the Times.
Simpson said a man wearing a hoodie pulled around his face opened fire at close range. After the gunman fled, Simpson and other bystanders rushed over to help Turner, Franklin and the children.
“It was awful. I felt absolutely helpless,” Simpson said. “I’m very sorry for that man’s family. My heart can’t even imagine what they’re going through right now.”
Turner, who met Franklin last year, proposed over the summer, according to friends. Hannah Hutzell, a longtime friend of Franklin’s, told the Times that Turner was kind and soft-spoken.
His love for his burgeoning family was apparent, she said.
“It was just so obvious how much he loved them,” Hutzell told the newspaper. "Just the way he smiled at her even when she was talking to someone else. She was just the center of his universe.
“I don’t think they had spent a day apart ever since they had been together. This absolutely breaks my heart. It feels like a nightmare.”
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