The man accused of killing a mother and daughter in their Rugby Avenue home before torching it was in court February 19 for a preliminary hearing for the murder of Robin Aldridge.
Gene Everett Washington, 30, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Robin, 58, and her daughter Mani, 17. Both were discovered dead in their home after a December 5 blaze that destroyed much of the house. Police said they died of blunt force trauma.
Washington, clad in a striped jail uniform with tattoos visible on his neck, appeared in Charlottesville General District Court with his attorney, Lloyd Snook. Judge Robert Downer agreed to transfer the hearing to Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, where the preliminary hearing for Mani Aldridge’s murder will be held on June 11, because she was a minor at the time of her death. If both cases are certified to the grand jury and go to trial, they will be heard in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
“The juvenile court has subject matter jurisdiction in a case in which the victim is a minor,” said defense attorney Adam Rhea, who is not involved in this case. Rhea noted that while the preliminary hearings for each of the two murder charges were initially set up to take place in separate courts, moving Robin’s hearing to the J&D court streamlines the legal procedures and, if they pass the preliminary hearing stage and a grand jury issues indictments, the charges will eventually be tried simultaneously in Circuit Court.
While many hearings in J&D court are closed, Washington’s hearing will likely be open, Rhea said, since the juvenile victim in the case is deceased.
Snook, noting that his client has been in jail for two months, requested a date earlier than June 11 for a preliminary hearing. He said the autopsy and DNA evidence was not back from the lab. “We object to having it last that far out,” he said.
Robin Aldridge, a popular teacher at Hollymead Elementary, and Mani, an 11th grader at Charlottesville High who was known for her love of music, were not discovered until hours after the fire was put out. Police said Mani knew Washington, but have not described their relationship other than to say their last known contact by phone or text was in late October, more than a month before her death.
Aldridge’s light blue 2003 Toyota Matrix was discovered the day after their deaths at Barracks West apartment complex, where Washington lived, and police said a television belonging to the Aldridges was found in his apartment. He was seen on Prospect Avenue earlier on the day of the Aldridges’ deaths, police said. Washington was arrested December 8 and has been held at Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail without bond.
While Snook has declined comment on the case or his client, Gene Washington insisted on his innocence in a letter sent to C-VILLE postmarked December 29.
In it, he claimed he was at friends’ houses and in multiple stores at the time of the crimes and blames the media for stating “false information to communities as if I’m some monster…I did not do this,” he wrote, “and I’m not going to stop telling everyone my innocences!”