Runyon v. United States

Citation228 F.Supp.3d 569
Decision Date19 January 2017
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. 4:15cv108,[ORIGINAL CRIMINAL NO. 4:08cr16–3]
Parties David Anthony RUNYON, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia

Michele J. Brace, Esquire, Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, 2421 Ivy Road, Suite 301, Charlottesville, VA 22903, Dana C.H. Chavis, Esquire, Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee, 800 S. Gay Street, Suite 2400 Knoxville, TN 37929, for Petitioner.

Brian J. Samuels, Lisa R. McKeel, Jeffrey A. Zick, Blair C. Perez, United States Attorney's Office, 721 Lake Front Commons, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606, for Respondent.



This matter comes before the court on the Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence ("Motion"), filed by David Anthony Runyon ("Petitioner") on February 4, 2016. ECF No. 511.1 Further before the court are the Petitioner's First Motion for Discovery, filed on December 9, 2015, ECF No. 491, and Second Motion for Discovery, filed on April 1, 2016. ECF No. 530. All matters have been fully briefed and are ripe for decision. For the reasons contained herein, the First Motion for Discovery is DENIED , and the Second Motion for Discovery is DENIED . The Motion to Vacate brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is DENIED .


On April 29, 2007, Cory Allen Voss ("Voss"), an officer in the United States Navy, was murdered. At the time, Voss was married to Catherina Voss ("Cat"), and the couple had two children, ages eight and seven. He was stationed out of Norfolk Naval Base, and lived in Newport News, Virginia, with his wife and children. On April 29, 2007, Voss returned home from a twenty-four hour shift aboard the USS Elrod , where he served as the Communications Officer. That night, Cat asked Voss to go to the ATM at Langley Federal Credit Union ("LFCU") in Newport News, Virginia. The next morning, Voss was found dead in his truck, after being shot five times with a .357 revolver as part of a murder-for-hire conspiracy. The facts neither start nor end here.

Testimony presented at trial revealed that in 2006, while Voss was at sea on a six-month deployment, Cat began having an extramarital affair with Michael Draven ("Draven"). After Voss returned home from that deployment, Cat and Cory Voss began experiencing financial difficulties, and the affair between Cat and Draven remained ongoing. Cat had no independent source of income, and Draven had no regular employment, but earned some money from participating in experimental clinical drug studies. Cat and Draven realized that if they were to stay together, and have the money to live the lavish lifestyle they wanted, they needed to get rid of Voss. As a member of the United States Navy, Voss had a life insurance policy through the Office of Servicemember's Group Life Insurance ("SGLI"), which named Cat as the primary beneficiary. Once Voss was dead, Cat would receive the $400,000 SGLI life insurance policy benefit, together with other Navy spousal benefits.

Cat and Draven decided that the best way to accomplish their goal was to hire someone to commit the actual murder. Draven had met David Anthony Runyon ("Runyon") while participating in experimental clinical drug trials, and Draven now reached out to Runyon about joining the conspiracy. Runyon was a former police officer and former member of the United States Army, as well as a firearm enthusiast. Runyon agreed to act as the triggerman, in exchange for payment. Once Runyon agreed to participate, phone records show that the defendants began to communicate and plan how to commit the crime.

On April 20, 2007, Cat Voss opened an account with LFCU, into which she deposited only five dollars. On April 29, 2007, the day of the murder, Runyon bought a .357 magnum Taurus revolver from George Koski in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Runyon was then living. Koski testified that he wrote down Runyon's driver's license number and phone number, and he also provided Runyon with some old ammunition. Koski further testified that the type of gun he sold Runyon could shoot both .357 magnum and .38 special cartridges. That same day, Runyon drove from Morgantown to Newport News, Virginia, to complete his part of the crime. He stopped at payphones along the way, including one at a Newport News Waffle House, to communicate with Draven, and Draven provided him with identifying information about Voss's truck. Runyon wrote down this information on a map of the Hampton Roads area, which police later discovered in Runyon's car. Phone records also indicate multiple calls between Draven and Cat Voss during this same time span.

Later on the night of April 29, 2007, around 11:00 p.m., Cat sent Voss to the ATM at LFCU. At approximately 11:31 p.m., Voss attempted a transaction but entered the wrong personal identification number. Surveillance footage and phone records reveal that Voss was talking to Cat on his cell phone at this time. At around 11:33 p.m., while Voss was still at the ATM, video shows that an assailant wearing a black hoodie climbed into Voss's truck. Voss reentered his truck at around 11:36 p.m. and began to drive away from the ATM, before returning at approximately 11:41 p.m. to attempt three withdrawals. All the withdrawals were denied for insufficient funds, because unbeknownst to Voss, Cat had placed only five dollars in the account. Voss then got back in his truck and drove away. He was found dead in his truck the next morning in a nearby parking lot. He had been shot five times, with three of the shots being fatal. Four hollow-point bullets and one jacket were recovered. The bullets were identified as .38 class, which can be used with guns capable of firing .357 magnum and .38 special cartridges.

Just a few days after the murder, Runyon checked back into a clinical drug study, and ordered online a stainless steel bore brush, which is used to clean the inside of the barrel of a gun, to be shipped to his West Virginia address, but under a false name. Expert testimony revealed this type of brush can impact examinations that attempt to link bullets to a specific gun. Testimony also revealed that in the Fall of 2007, Runyon had a friend pawn his .357 Taurus magnum revolver several times. Then, in December 2007, Runyon instructed his friend to retrieve the firearm from the pawn shop one last time, and to give the gun back to him. The police were unable to locate the gun after its return to Runyon.

While the police were beginning the investigation into the crime, the defendants were working together to hide evidence of the murder. Although Cat had received an initial $100,000 death gratuity benefit from the United States Navy, which she and Draven quickly spent, she had yet to receive the $400,000 life insurance benefit on Voss. In order to receive the full payout, Cat had to clear herself from suspicion, and emails and wiretaps showed that the defendants coordinated amongst themselves to align their alibis and hide their relationships with each other from the investigators.

During police interviews, the defendants gave conflicting stories and attempted to obstruct the investigation. Runyon denied owning any firearms, and he was unable to confirm his whereabouts on April 29 and 30, 2007. All of the parties denied the relationship between Draven and Cat for several months, although Draven did eventually admit the affair to the police.3 Both Draven and Runyon stated they had met or called each other from a Waffle House in Newport News during the Spring of 2007. Draven further admitted that Runyon used the payphone there to talk with him on the night of the murder, although Draven claimed that Runyon stopped at the Waffle House on his way to an out-of-state fishing trip.

In December 2007, nearly eight months after the murder, police executed search warrants in West Virginia for Runyon's residences, vehicle, and storage unit, and the contents of the search were introduced during the guilt phase of trial. In the console of Runyon's car, agents found a map of Newport News, Virginia, on which Runyon had written the following: "Langley Federal Credit Union, 97 grey Ford Ranger, FL hubcap missing, tailgate down, J. Morris Blvd, Cory." The description of the Ford Ranger matched the description of Voss's truck, and J. [Clyde] Morris Boulevard is a street near the LFCU that Voss went to on the night he was murdered. Also found with the map was a photograph of Cat and Draven, with their names, addresses, and social security numbers written on the back.

In Runyon's residence, the investigators located a shopping list written by Runyon, which included a taser, Spyderco knife, tarp, trash bag, boots, gloves, military-style pants, and a black hoodie. Runyon had also written on that list the location of LFCU, and travel time and mileage from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Newport News, Virginia. Although Runyon had apparently requested a payment of five hundred dollars ($500) up front for the murder, a Western Union receipt indicated that Runyon received two hundred seventy-five dollars ($275) from Draven's brother, Randy Fitchett, on June 1, 2007. Fitchett testified, and while he denied that he sent the money order, he recalled going with Draven to send the money order to a friend of Draven's. Additionally, the police found boxes of .38 special and .357 magnum bullets in the basement of Runyon's former residence.4 Five of the Winchester .357 magnum hollow-point bullets were missing from the box, and medical reports revealed that Voss had been shot five times by hollow-point .38 class bullets. Expert witness testimony provided that .38 class bullets include .357 magnum and .38 special bullets. Multiple witnesses also testified that Runyon had bragged about killing Voss, or a military member or other unidentified person, for money.

In February 2008, a five-count Indictment was returned against Runyon, Cat, and...

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    • September 1, 2017
    ...does not allege that the court's jury plan or jury selection process was defective or that there was a violation thereof. See Runyon, 228 F.Supp.3d 569 at 650–52 (addressing such allegations and finding them without merit). He also does not make any showing of the exclusion of these groups ......
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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of North Carolina
    • June 29, 2020
    ...of cross-examination would have undermined the strong evidence of Petitioner's guilt in any way. See, e.g. Runyon v. United States, 228 F.Supp.3d 569 (E.D. Va. 2017) (counsel was not ineffective for failing to cross-examine witness regarding inconsistencies were explained in the testimony o......
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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of North Carolina
    • June 29, 2020
    ...areas of cross-examination would have undermined the strong evidence of Petitioner's guilt in any way. See, e.g. Runyon v. United States, 228 F.Supp.3d 569 (E.D. Va. 2017) (counsel was not ineffective for failing to cross-examine witness regarding inconsistencies were explained in the testi......
  • United States v. Runyon
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • December 23, 2020
    ...and an evidentiary hearing and dismissed the § 2255 motion. It also denied a certificate of appealability. Runyon v. United States , 228 F. Supp. 3d 569 (E.D. Va. 2017).By order dated August 14, 2019, we granted a certificate of appealability on the four issues now before us. See 28 U.S.C. ......
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