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Two defendants plead guilty in 2016 shootout

Two men charged in a 2016 attempted robbery and gunfight at a private garage off Lake Monticello Road entered guilty pleas to multiple felony charges in Fluvanna County Circuit Court on Thursday (Jan. 18). 

John Morton Abbitt and Thomas Andrew Jackson both pleaded guilty to counts of malicious wounding, attempted larceny, and use of a firearm in the commission of felony.

Another man involved in the crime, Dante Givens, appeared in court Wednesday (Jan. 17), but entered no plea as the final details of his plea agreement were still being worked out. He is scheduled to return to court Feb. 1.

All three men testified against Gary N. Blowe during his jury trial in early January. Blowe was found guilty of aggravated malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding, and other charges.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip stipulated to the court that if Abbitt and Jackson had gone to trial, the Commonwealth could prove that Jackson and Givens had seen a gun safe at the garage during a visit for car repairs some months before the robbery, and that Jackson had told Abbitt, who traveled with Blowe from Virginia Beach on Nov. 18, 2016. 

Abbitt, Jackson and Blowe found the gun safe empty. The failed robbery then took a dangerous turn when property owner Garnette Bourne arrived and Blowe began firing at him with a pistol, hitting Bourne in the leg. Abbitt and Jackson escaped by jumping out of the second floor window and as he attempted to flee into the woods, Abbitt exchanged fire with Bourne’s brother, Scott. 

Jackson is not believed to have had a weapon, but was legally liable for malicious wounding and use of a firearm in a felony since he had aided and abetted Blowe and Abbitt in the crime.   

Blowe is facing a potential maximum of 45 years in prison, while Abbitt could serve 43 years, and Jackson up to 38 years. They will be sentenced May 11.