Woman says estranged husband killed boyfriend, shot her during Chesterfield murder trial


CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The first day in the trial of Joshua M. Federico, a man charged with killing his estranged wife’s boyfriend in Chesterfield, came with emotional testimony from a key witness: his wife. Sarah Federico, who was shot and severely injured in last August’s reported attack, shared details in court Monday about the night she said she thought she was going to die.

J. Federico has been accused of fatally shooting 38-year-old Lawrence J. Howell, who was living with S. Federico at her home on Second Branch Road, in the late hours of Aug. 23, 2018. Police said they found S. Federico at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds. She was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

S. Federico, who is now in a wheelchair, testified in court Monday that a few weeks before Howell’s murder, on Aug. 3, 2018, her home was broken into and several personal items were taken. She mentioned that the front door had been taken off its frame and over $50,000 was missing.

On the night of Howell’s death, S. Federico says she wasn’t feeling well and decided to leave the computer science class she was teaching at Chester Career College early. S. Federico, who said she was pregnant at the time, then told the court about the timeline of events for the night.

Joshua M. Federico

S. Federico claimed that around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2018, Howell let the dogs outside. That’s when she said she first heard gunshots. S. Federico said Howell came stumbling back in afterwards, but not walking, and said “gun.”

S. Federico said she looked for a gun that a friend had loaned her but couldn’t find it and ran in the bathroom to hide. She told the court that she knew Howell was dead after hearing him collapse behind the couch. S. Federico said the bathroom door was opened by J. Federico, who then shot her in the right arm.

She claimed that J. Federico stayed at the home for hours, asking her about several topics after killing Howell. S. Federico said she asked her husband if he broke into the home on Aug. 3 and he confirmed that he did. She told the court that J. Federico said he planned to make the incident seem as if the two were fighting.

S. Federico admitted that she followed J. Federico’s orders to scratch his face, in order to make it seem as if they were fighting, and fire a gun into paper towels. She continued and said after J. Federico finished cleaning with bleach, he grabbed a pillow and shot her in the stomach.

Authorities stage an investigation at a home on Second Branch Road in Chesterfield County (Aug. 24, 2018)

S. Federico said that with J. Federico going back to the garage and her fearing for her life, she ran through the front door and towards her neighbor’s house. She told the courtroom that she heard another shot being fired at her as she knocked on the backdoor of her neighbor’s home.

S. Federico says she was taken into surgery after being shot in the abdomen and back. She told the court she will never walk again.

Following the murder of Howell, J. Federico led authorities on a three-day manhunt before he was arrested.

RELATED: Man accused of shooting wife, murdering her boyfriend captured after 3-day search

After an investigation that lasted months, members of Federico’s family were arrested and charged in December in a murder-for-hire plot. Investigators claim that while in prison Federico conspired with his brother, mother and an acquaintance to hire people to kill witnesses of the August 2018 shooting death of Howell.

The trial is expected to last all week.

Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.

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