One year later robbery suspects await judgment

Nov. 18 marked one full year from the day reports of armed suspects fleeing the scene of a robbery near Lake Monticello threw the county into chaos.

The trouble began when Fluvanna County Sheriff's Office responded to reports of a burglary and shooting at a private garage in the 2000 block of Lake Monticello Road at about 1:15 p.m.

According to press releases issued by the sheriff’s office at the time, three to four suspects were allegedly in the process of robbing the garage when the owner and an associate arrived. 

“The burglars shot at the property owner and his associate as they entered the garage,” the release stated. “The property owner and his associate returned fire on the burglars, causing the burglars to flee.”   

The unnamed property owner was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

With armed suspects on the loose just before the final bell at local schools, the school system announced a modified lockdown.

The combination of the manhunt, the delayed school buses, and hundreds of anxious parents picking students up at area schools caused traffic backups along Route 53 and other area roads lasting until well after dark. 

Two suspects were arrested within hours of the shooting: Dante J. Givens, 35, and Thomas A. Jackson, 36, both of Charlottesville. John Morton Abbitt, 36, was arrested in Virginia Beach two days later. 

A final suspect, Gary N. Blowe, 31, was taken into custody in Virginia Beach Dec. 17.

All four men have been held at Central Virginia Regional Jail since their arrests last winter. 

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeffrey Haislip said it is not unusual for cases with serious charges to take time to work through the courts. Each of the four was indicted by grand juries last summer on multiple felonies, ranging from malicious wounding to conspiracy to commit robbery.

Abbitt, Givens, and Jackson will make their next court appearances in individual hearings Dec. 19. Blowe is scheduled to go before a jury Jan. 8 in a trial expected to last two days.