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UVA shooting suspect set for March preliminary hearing

Albemarle County Prosecutor James Hingeley stands outside a brick courthouse.
Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley speaks outside Albemarle General District Court on Nov. 16. Authorities say University of Virginia student Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. opened fire on classmates in November while aboard a charter bus returning from a field trip to Washington, D.C. (File photo: Whittney Evans/VPM News)

A preliminary hearing is set for March 30 after the man accused of  fatally shooting three University of Virginia students last month appeared in an Albemarle County courtroom on Thursday. Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, is facing 10 charges, including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.

Authorities said Jones, a UVA student, opened fire on his classmates while aboard a charter bus returning from a field trip to Washington, D.C.

Three members of the school's football team — Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry — were killed, and another two students were injured in the attack.

Jones, a former walk-on Cavalier football player, is being held without bond at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. He hasn't entered a plea.

Meanwhile, a special counsel appointed by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is looking into whether the university did all it could to prevent the shooting. UVA President Jim Ryan requested the attorney general’s involvement.

Jones had previously been convicted of reckless driving and hit-and-run, and was the subject of a campus investigation involving comments he made about having a gun. UVA police said Jones was required to disclose his prior criminal convictions to the school, but never did.

Jones was arrested in Chesterfield County in 2021 and convicted of a concealed weapons violation. At the time, he also had outstanding warrants in Petersburg for a hit-and-run and reckless driving. In both cases, his jail sentences were suspended.

But UVA officials only found out about the convictions after investigating Jones in September 2022. In that case, the Office of Student Affairs reported Jones had made a comment about having a gun to a person unaffiliated with the school.

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley offered additional details about the shooting during Jones’ arraignment last month. He said a witness told detectives Jones shot the first victim, Chandler, while he was sleeping. The witness added Jones was targeting passengers and was not “shooting randomly.”

The university canceled its last two football games of the season, opting instead to memorialize the victims in a service on campus.

The NCAA has granted any UVA football player whose eligibility expires in 2022 an extra season to play, according to The Daily Progress.

Virginia State Police, which is handling the criminal investigations, said it recovered a handgun near the scene of the shooting. Investigators also found a rifle and a handgun inside Jones’ dorm room. VSP said the firearms have been turned over as evidence to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.