Commonwealth v. Ronny L. Jernigan; Previously Convicted Felon Found Guilty in Cold Case Sexual Assault from 1992
Colin D. Stolle, Commonwealth's Attorney for the City of Virginia Beach, announced today that Ronny L. Jernigan, 65 years old, was found guilty by a jury on charges of Forcible Sodomy, Abduction with the Intent to Defile, and Robbery. Circuit Court Judge James C. Lewis, who presided over the three-day trial, will sentence Jernigan on December 13, 2021.
The Commonwealth's evidence proved that at approximately 8:00 p.m. on November 6, 1992, a 21-year-old woman left Video Express near the intersection of Wesleyan Drive and Newtown Road. As she reached her car, Ronny Jernigan grabbed her from behind, held a knife to her throat, and forced her into the car. While holding the knife in his right hand, Jernigan drove the woman to a dark parking lot nearby. He made her empty her purse and took her driver's license and credit cards. He then made her take her clothes off. He sexually assaulted her, then kicked her out of the car and drove away.
The victim ran to a nearby house for help. A man answered and let her inside to call the police. She then went to the hospital, where forensic evidence was collected as part of a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK). A detective with the Virginia Beach Police Department took the PERK kit back to the police department, where it was secured until it could be sent out for testing.
In November 2016, a new method of DNA testing created a DNA profile from the 1992 sample. DFS ran this profile through the Virginia and National DNA Databanks. They received notification that the 1992 DNA profile matched the profile of Ronny Jernigan, who was incarcerated in Florida on a robbery charge. Police got a search warrant for Jernigan's DNA and sent it to DFS for testing. The DNA profile from the victim's PERK kit was a confirmed match to Ronny Jernigan.
Jernigan has a lengthy record dating back to 1975 in multiple states. His prior convictions include Homicide-Manslaughter, Aggravated Assault with a Weapon, Armed Robbery (2 counts), Robbery (5 counts), Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Possession of Marijuana, and Larceny.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys Michael D. Defricke and Justin M. Brewster prosecuted the case. Please contact Macie Allen if additional information is desired.