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Posted on: August 30, 2023

Commonwealth v. Michael N. E. Ebong

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Opioids

Norfolk Man Sentenced to Life in Prison Following Jury Convictions for Two Virginia Beach Women’s Manslaughters, Another’s Rape

NORFOLK, Va. – Michael Nse Eyo Ebong, who between 2020 and 2021 drugged three Virginia Beach women in date-rape-style incidents resulting in two of the women’s deaths, was sentenced today in Norfolk Circuit Court to two life sentences plus 20 years in prison. Mr. Ebong’s sentencing follows his September jury trial conviction of causing the two women’s deaths and of raping and sexually abusing the third woman.

On Nov. 15, 2020, Mr. Ebong reported to Norfolk Police that a woman on his couch inside his apartment was unresponsive. When medics arrived at 1216 Hillside Avenue that morning, they pronounced 35-year-old Sheena Marie West dead. Ms. West’s autopsy ruled her cause of death as an accidental overdose from a combination of alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. Mr. Ebong told investigators at the time that he had met Ms. West at a Virginia Beach bar the previous night, he claimed that he had seen her going to the restroom to do drugs throughout the night out, and he said he consensually brought her home with him. Many of Ms. West’s belongings were left behind at the bar. Mr. Ebong was not under suspicion for Ms. West’s death until the death of 30-year-old Kelsey Rae Paton under nearly identical circumstances months later.

On May 22, 2021, Mr. Ebong raped a woman at the same Bayview apartment. The woman testified at Mr. Ebong’s trial that she had been out drinking with friends, but not enough for her to have blacked out, the night before. The next thing she remembered was awakening to Mr. Ebong sexually abusing her and struggling under the influence of what felt like drugs to fully regain her consciousness. She remembered Mr. Ebong’s face and details about the time that she was inside the apartment, but she was too incapacitated to stand on her own and attempt to leave. Mr. Ebong eventually drove her back to Virginia Beach and dropped her off near her home. Several days passed before the woman fully recovered, at which point she reported her rape to the Norfolk Family Justice Center and underwent a sexual assault nurse examination. Because the woman was not previously acquainted with Mr. Ebong, did not know his full name, and did not know the address where her assault occurred, she was not initially able to identify Mr. Ebong as her assailant.

On July 11, 2021, Mr. Ebong again called Norfolk Police to report an unresponsive woman in his apartment. When medics arrived, they pronounced Ms. Paton dead. Ms. Paton’s autopsy ruled her cause of death as an overdose from a combination of alcohol, heroin, fentanyl, and antidepressants, and the medical examiner classified Ms. Paton’s death as suspicious and undetermined, noting the earlier death of Ms. West at the same location. Norfolk Police opened an investigation to Mr. Ebong as a person of interest in Ms. Paton’s and Ms. West’s deaths.

Soon after Ms. Paton’s death, photos of Mr. Ebong and his name began circulating on social media among concerned community members who had seen him at bars. The woman who was not able to initially name Mr. Ebong months before as her assailant saw his photo and immediately recognized him. She contacted Norfolk Police to identify Mr. Ebong, and he was arrested for rape on July 16, 2021.

Forensic testing of Ms. West’s and Ms. Paton’s bodies and of the rape victim’s physical evidence recovery kit all revealed the presence of Mr. Ebong’s DNA. Following the preliminary hearing for Mr. Ebong’s sexual assault charges in Norfolk General District Court on Nov. 16, 2021, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office secured indictments from a grand jury against Mr. Ebong for two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Ms. West and Ms. Paton.

A Norfolk jury convicted Mr. Ebong on Sept. 16, 2022, of two counts of involuntary manslaughter — a lesser-included offense of murder — for the deaths of Ms. West and Ms. Paton, and the jury convicted Mr. Ebong as charged of the rape and object sexual penetration of the third, surviving victim.

Mr. Ebong’s state sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of 13 years and eight months to 44 years and two months. Because of the seriousness of Mr. Ebong’s crimes and the danger Mr. Ebong would present to other people should he be out of prison, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office recommended the maximum possible sentences of two terms of life in prison plus 20 years to serve, all consecutive.

On Wednesday, Judge Tasha D. Scott sentenced Mr. Ebong in accordance with the Commonwealth’s recommendation. In explaining her reasons for departing from the sentencing guidelines, Judge Scott noted the “predatory” nature of Mr. Ebong’s crimes and his continued dangerousness to the community were he to be released.

“Cases like Mr. Ebong’s are why some offenses are punishable by life, and life was the sentence that fits Mr. Ebong’s crimes,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. “Michael Ebong abused these vulnerable and helpless victims for his own gratification, leaving two of them dead and a third forever changed. The Court imposed a sentence that holds Mr. Ebong accountable for his terrible crimes and protects the public from further harm. I thank the surviving victim and the families of all three victims for their strength and help in this difficult process.”

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney K. Scott Miles led Mr. Ebong’s sentencing on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office would like to thank former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordon D. Fraser (now of the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office), Norfolk Police Special Crimes Unit Detective Calen D. Wood, the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, and all involved first responders and analysts for their crucial work in Mr. Ebong’s case.

If you have or someone you love has fallen victim to crime, including but not limited to sexual assault, resources are available at the Norfolk Family Justice Center. For more information, please visit norfolkfjc.org, call 757-330-0376 or stop by the NFJC inside the Park Place Multi-Services Center at 606 W. 29th St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. If you are in crisis, call the 24/7 hotline by dialing 757-251-0144. In an emergency, please call 911.

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