After earlier mistrial, former U.S. Postal Service mail carrier convicted in killing of co-worker's husband

·5 min read
After earlier mistrial, former U.S. Postal Service mail carrier convicted in killing of co-worker's husband

A jury on Thursday convicted a former U.S. Postal Service mail carrier of all charges in the killing of a co-worker’s husband exactly one year earlier.

After a three-day trial, the Newport News Circuit Court jury found Jeremy Todd Pettway, 41, guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy and gun charges in the slaying of 39-year-old Salahud-Din Ibn “Sal” Shabazz.

Shabazz was shot inside the front door of his Menchville home on April 7, 2021, with prosecutors contending Pettway knocked on Shabazz’s door, then fired when he answered.

Prosecutors said the killing stemmed from a feud Shabazz’s wife, mail carrier Jacquie Shabazz, was having with another postal worker, Tashara Jackson.

Jackson, 31, was convicted of first-degree murder and related charges in March and will be sentenced June 24. This week’s trial was Pettway’s second, after a prior one ended in a hung jury.

Sal Shabazz, a father of five, was a U.S. Army veteran who worked as a forklift operator. One of his sisters, Aesha Shabazz, 45, of Spring Lake, North Carolina, said the family is elated at the jury’s decision.

“The guilty verdict came down on the first anniversary of the tragedy, so that was kind of profound for us,” she said Friday after returning from three days attending the trial in Newport News.

The slaying was the culmination of a long-running dispute between Jacquie Shabazz and Jackson, who worked together at a Newport News post office. Among the problems, according to trial testimony, was the extramarital relationship that Jacquie Shabazz was having with a mailman whose wife was good friends with Jackson.

Leading up to the shooting, Jackson and Jacquie Shabazz had several verbal and physical altercations.

Shabazz admitted at trial that she slashed the tires of Jackson’s car after an argument in March 2021. A few days later, Shabazz’s SUV was spray painted and otherwise vandalized when the family was out of town.

When they returned on April 6, the Shabazzes went to a local restaurant, Harpoon Larry’s, planning to confront Jackson there. Witnesses said Sal Shabazz pointed a Taser to keep others away as the women fought in the parking lot, and that he kicked Jackson during the altercation.

Concerned about repercussions from the fight, Jacquie Shabazz and the couple’s four daughters went to a York County motel that night, while Sal Shabazz — who had been drinking ― stayed home.

Jacquie Shabazz testified she was on the phone with her husband about 2 a.m. when someone knocked on the door. He went to answer, she said, and she heard some brief words, followed by gunshots. Four cartridge casings were found nearby.

Prosecutors Andrea Booden and Jacqueline Donner with the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office contended Jackson and Pettway went to the home to retaliate for the restaurant fight.

At trial, the prosecutors relied on GPS data showing the movements of Jackson’s and Pettway’s cellphones, which were turned off as they approached the home. Prosecutors also used surveillance footage from traffic cameras, schools and homes that showed what appeared to be Jackson’s SUV headed to Menchville, stopping at the Shabazz residence, then fleeing with its headlights out.

In text messages in the days after the shooting, Jackson said Pettway had been there for her and “didn’t hesitate,” and said they were “Bonnie and Clyde forever,” a reference to the infamous criminal couple from the Great Depression era.

Pettway later texted Jackson to say that police searched his house but didn’t find his gun because he had given it to another mail carrier friend. Officers would later find the gun under that woman’s bed.

Pettway’s lawyer, James Ellenson, denied his client killed Shabazz, contending Jacquie Shabazz wanted her husband killed because of marital problems — she had previously accused him of domestic assault — and to be with the man with whom she was having the affair. A small amount of gunshot residue found on her hand on the night of the killing was suspicious, the lawyer asserted.

The prosecution disputed those theories, presenting expert testimony that trace amounts of gunshot residue can get on someone’s hand from being in a police car or at police headquarters. (Jacquie Shabazz was in both places talking to officers after the shooting).

Before trial, Circuit Court Judge Gary Mills barred Ellenson from arguing that the man Sal Shabazz’s wife was having the affair with had shot Shabazz. Though Ellenson had raised that theory at Pettway’s first trial, Mills ruled there was insufficient evidence to bring it up again.

Booden said Mills also barred from evidence a host of sexually explicit text messages between that man and Jacquie Shabazz, even as the messages were allowed at the last trial. The change, Mills ruled, was because Jacquie immediately admitted to a sexual relationship this time rather than initially calling the man a “friend” as she did at the last trial.

The jury took about three hours between Wednesday and Thursday before finding Pettway guilty of all counts. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced July 15.

Aesha Shabazz, Sal’s sister, said it was jarring that U.S. Postal Service carriers “had all this time to do all this stuff” — referring to the interoffice relationships during a pandemic. The one person who wasn’t employed by the postal service, she pointed out, “was the one who lost his life.”

“What is the work climate going on there that led to something like this, right?” she said. “We are and always will be devastated.”

Peter Dujardin, 757-247-4749,