A little more than a year after a shooting left a Petersburg man dead and a Virginia State University student wounded just off campus, VSU student Ryan Christopher Simms will go on trial today on charges he killed a man in a drug rip-off scheme that went terribly wrong.
The jury trial, which is scheduled to last four days, comes as the VSU community is still grappling with the aftermath of the April 20 deaths of two VSU students who drowned trying to cross the Appomattox River as part of a social club initiation rite.
Nearly 40 witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify at the Simms trial, including a man who was initially charged in the incident. Simms faces charges of first-degree murder, malicious wounding and using a firearm in the commission of a felony in the incident on April 17, 2012.
Simms, who was 19 at the time, is accused of fatally shooting Tyrail H. Hughes, a 2012 graduate of Petersburg High School, after Hughes — waving a gun — confronted Simms and several young men with him, believing they had helped rob him of an ounce of marijuana he was selling for $425, according to testimony at Simms’ preliminary hearing last summer.