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Man pleads guilty to murdering PVCC student

Like several other shootings in recent months, the fatal shooting of Piedmont Virginia Community College student and Gordonsville resident Nicklous Pendleton was caught on tape.

That video was played in Charlottesville Circuit Court Monday, the same day that Pendleton’s killer, Rayma’qua Antonio Nicholas, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, convictions that could put the 21-year-old away for up to 43 years.

"I so hope that the suspect will receive a harsh enough sentence to hopefully deter, or at least make others think about how much of their own life they may be throwing away," Dana Cherry told The Daily Progress.

Cherry was on track to become Pendleton’s mother-in-law before he lost his life on Feb. 22, 2023. On that day, the 20-year-old Pendleton, in a pickup truck, had driven his brother to the Westhaven public housing complex in Charlottesville’s 10th & Page neighborhood to sell some marijuana, according to information revealed in court by prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony, who told the court that Pendleton’s brother felt so unfamiliar with the complex that he asked Pendleton to accompany him.

The revelation helps explain why, according to a witness to the immediate aftermath of the shooting, as Pendleton lay dying, his brother cried out in remorse.

As Antony told the story in court Monday, Nicholas produced a handgun instead of money, an action that led Pendleton to attempt to drive away. But as the pickup truck began leaving the housing complex, Nicholas fired once at the driver. An ensuing crash at the corner of Hardy Drive and Page Street broke the brother’s leg, while the single gunshot wound ultimately claimed Pendleton’s life later that day at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

A 2021 graduate of Louisa County High School, Pendleton was pursuing a business administration degree at PVCC.

In an open letter, Cherry called Pendleton her "bonus son," lauded his thirst for knowledge and rued the fact that his death cut short his official entry into her family.

"He was smart, driven, funny, and so handsome," she wrote. "He showed the utmost kindness to children, and the utmost respect to the elderly. He was just all that is good."

Donations in Pendleton’s honor created a new fund at PVCC which awarded its first three scholarships in October.

This killing is one of the multiple recent shootings in Charlottesville that were caught on camera, leading to convictions. Others include:

■ The Oct. 23, 2022, slaying of 31-year-old Davonn Jamar Wilson and the injury of two bystanders by Marcel Darell Washington.

■ The March 4, 2023, ambush and slaying of 20-year-old Justice Kilel at the Sunshine Supermarket on Cherry Avenue by Orlando Wendell Allen Jr.

■ The March 18, 2023, slaying of 26-year-old Cody Brian Smith near Elliewood Ave. by Lakori Rayquan Brooks.

■ The Dec. 18, 2022, nonfatal shooting of Airrick Salisbury by Anthony Marcus Paige on 14th Street.

■ The Feb. 8, 2023, nonfatal shooting of Devin Lamar Perry by Demetrius A. Brown at the Wicked Hits game hall.

Additionally, the Sept. 13 wounding of two men who ejected four young males from a THC dispensary at Fashion Square Mall was also reportedly caught on camera. But that case remains pending after a judge rejected the plea agreement sought by suspect Jalontae Truriel Percer.

"As our community continues to grapple with gun violence, we are once again reminded of the devastating impact of the loss of an innocent life," Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania said in a statement following Nicholas’ plea.

Held without bail at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail since his year-ago arrest, Nicholas will be sentenced on June 13. Sentencing hearings often include statements from grieving friends and relatives.

"We are all still going day by day," Cherry said, "missing Nicklous daily."


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