The feud between West Potomac High School classmates escalated from eggs and paint ball pellets to murder last Halloween.
Following a two-day bench trial last week, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge J. Howe Brown convicted Joseph Effler, 17, of second degree murder. The victim, Henry Andrade, 26, initially had nothing to do with the teenage feud.
“It is a tragedy — a man who shouldn’t be dead is, a kid who should have never had a gun had one,” said Michael Arif, Effler’s defense attorney during closing arguments on May 9, 2006.
Joey Effler could face five to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
<b>EFFLER GOT</b> in a fist fight with his former West Potomac High School classmate Robert Winebrenner, 17, more than a year ago, according to testimony during the trial.
Effler didn’t let it go.
Effler pelted Winebrenner’s house with two pink paint ball rounds last Halloween night.
Winebrenner didn’t let it go.
Winebrenner and his friend drove to Effler’s friend’s house, where they threw eggs at Effler, his friends and his Cadillac.
Neither group let it go.
After a series of phone calls, the groups convened on Fort Drive outside Winebrenner’s house in Huntington. Winebrenner’s 15-year-old friend was supposed to fight one of Effler’s friends, a 20-year-old.
Winebrenner brought some bats from his house. “We got bats just in case they had knives,” Winebrenner said.
Winebrenner also called his adult neighbor, Henry Andrade, “because he was always there for me if I ever needed anything.”
But when Effler saw the 15-year-old with a bat, he brought out his gun, a .38 Special with a laser-sight attachment that his father bought six days before.
“He was shining the laser on me,” the 15-year-old testified. “I just saw the laser, I ran up the hill.”
He thought the gun was a BB-gun.
That’s when Winebrenner’s neighbor, Henry Andrade, walked toward Effler. “As soon as he reached for the gun, I told him to back up,” Effler told homicide detective Christopher Flanagan when he was questioned and charged the next morning. The two-hour interview was played the second day of the trial.
“The [laser] sight was on him. I wasn’t going to hit his organs, I was trying to hit him on his arms if I had to. I wasn’t trying to shoot the kid,” Effler said.
Approximately 45 minutes into the interview, Effler asked the detective what happened to Andrade, whom he didn’t even know by name.
“He passed away,” Flanagan said.
“I didn’t know the kid passed away,” Effler said, later in the interview.
“Unfortunately, Joey, this is what happens when guns are involved,” Flanagan said.
<b>EFFLER’S FATHER BOUGHT</b> the firearm at an Alexandria pawn shop to protect his family, he testified. The owner told him having the laser-sight attachment could be enough to deter a crook, Richard Effler testified.
“The person would understand that this was a gun that was not going to miss,” he said.
Joey Effler wanted his father to purchase a gun, Richard Effler testified, after he grew fearful while preparing to testify in the case against Christopher Isani last fall.
Isani, a Fort Hunt resident, was accused of stealing 18 shotguns and handguns from another Fort Hunt residence on March 1, 2005 and selling them to acquaintances including Joey Effler. Isani pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and was sentenced in January to eight years in prison — four years were suspended.
Effler never had to testify, but his father said Joey Effler was frightened of Isani, who had been free on bond.
“Were Joey’s fears so real that he needed a gun?” Arif asked his client’s father.
“He seemed to think so,” Richard Effler said.
Richard Effler testified that he asked detective Donald Bateman about “the advisability of me buying a gun.”
“I said it was not against the law,” Bateman testified, “but he might want to rethink it because of Joey’s fascination with firearms.”
Six days before his son shot Henry Andrade — the same week Isani’s bond was revoked — Effler’s father bought the gun. He also bought another gun he was to take possession of the next month, a .45-caliber handgun.
Richard Effler said he wanted the .38 Special because it was easier to handle while his son wanted him to buy a .45-caliber handgun. “He felt it offered a higher level of protection,” Richard Effler said.
Arif asked his client’s father why he even had a discussion with a 17-year-old about what kind of gun he wanted.
“What were you thinking Mr. Effler?” Arif said.
But Judge Brown said Joey Effler was responsible for shooting Andrade — blaming his father was a “red herring.”
“They [his parents] are going to have their own legal problems and own moral regret, but the defendant made the choice that resulted in Mr. Andrade’s death,” he said.
“And he’s going to have to live with that.”