Minister found guilty of role in murder case

Nation of Islam minister Malvester Dixon Jr. was convicted of being an accessory after the fact.

The Roanoke Times/August 11, 2005
By Mike Allen

Stuart - A Patrick County jury found a Nation of Islam minister guilty Thursday of being an accessory after the fact to capital murder in a September 2000 shooting death in Martinsville.

Malvester Dixon Jr., 56, had been facing a capital murder charge related to the slaying of Lisa Nicole Thomas in her Martinsville shop. The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for about eight hours over three days before convicting Dixon of the lesser accessory charge. They also convicted him of using a firearm in a felony, shooting into an occupied dwelling and conspiracy to commit capital murder, and recommended a total sentence of 16 years in prison. The case was moved from Martinsville because of pretrial publicity.

One of the jurors cried after Circuit Court Judge Martin Clark read the sentence. After the jury was released, about 20 relatives and friends of Dixon gathered by him. He offered them smiles and pats on the shoulder before deputies led him away.

Martinsville Commonwealth's Attorney Joan Ziglar argued in court that Dixon conspired with Maverick Thomas, Lisa Thomas' husband, to have her killed. Maverick Thomas was convicted of capital murder for hire and other charges in a jury trial in Roanoke that ended two weeks ago. He received life in prison without parole for the capital conviction. A jury also recommended that Thomas serve an additional 33 years in prison for the related charges.

At both trials, Billy Ray Manns, now 20, testified that when he was 16, Dixon and Thomas paid him $10,000 to kill Lisa Thomas. Manns was tried twice for the capital murder of Lisa Thomas, but was ultimately acquitted. Afterward, while in custody on unrelated charges, he told police he was her killer. In October 2003, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder. In exchange for his testimony, he will serve one year of a 20-year sentence.

In her closing arguments Tuesday, Ziglar told the jury she made a deal with Manns "which I do not apologize for." When investigating members of a conspiracy, she said, "until you get one of them to turn on the others, you don't get anywhere with any of them."

Ziglar emphasized the testimony of a woman who said she was at the hospital the night of the killing and overheard Dixon telling members of his Nation of Islam study group - which Maverick Thomas belonged to - not to mourn for Lisa Thomas because "she wasn't worth it."

Ziglar also said that Dixon would not allow members of his study group to speak to police unless they cleared it with him. She did not provide an explanation as to Dixon's motive for participating in the conspiracy.

Defense attorneys countered that parts of Manns' story were invented, and that his testimony was the only evidence that tied Dixon to the crime.

Thursday, defense attorney Tony Anderson told the jury that he respected their verdict, but was disappointed by it. Because a gag order has been placed on the lawyers in the Dixon case, neither side would comment after the trial ended.

Both Thomas and Dixon will have sentencing hearings in which judges will weigh whether to impose the full sentences recommended by their juries. Thomas' is scheduled for Oct. 3, Dixon's for Nov. 4.

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