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Mom finds closure after teen daughter’s murder: ‘Justice was given to me by God’

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A Henrico Circuit Court judge has nolle prossed, or dismissed, the charges against a man accused of killing his daughter and niece during a double shooting in 2018.

In December 2019, Abdool Zaman died by suicide in Henrico Jail East exactly a year after the killings, according to the Henrico Sheriff's Office.

Zaman was indicted on two counts of capital murder, along with the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony first and second offense for the December 13, 2018 crime.

Police said Vanessa Zaman and Leona Samlall were shot as they walked near the Oakmeade Apartments on Airport Drive and East Nine Mile Road in Highland Springs.

Abdool Zaman, Vanessa Zaman, and Leona Samlall

On Tuesday, the Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney's Office requested that Zaman's charges be nolle prossed during a scheduled motion hearing. His 15-day-trial was set to begin in August of 2020.

Vanessa's mother, Saveeta Barnes, said she had a short relationship with Vanessa's father. It ended when her daughter was a toddler.

"When someone decides to murder someone else and takes someone else’s life they should be prepared to give up their own," Barnes explained. "He saved a lot of taxpayer money and the stress of having to wonder what will happen and what will be the outcome of the case."

Barnes said her faith and family have helped her since her only child was murdered.

Saveeta Barnes

Saveeta Barnes

"It’s going to hurt when I miss her, but time does heal. She will always be my baby. I will always love her," she said.

Barnes believed several people turned a blind eye that led to the teen's killing. She mentioned a cab driver who failed to act when he dropped off the girls prior to the shooting.

"They knew there were two teenagers in some sort of trouble and never did anything about it," Barnes stated.

She said the cousins ran from an abusive situation in Florida to Henrico along with Leona's baby. That baby was fathered by Samlall's uncle, Abdool Zaman, according to Barnes.

She flew down from New York just to attend Tuesday's motion hearing.

"More so for closure. I didn’t want to not come and wonder what would happen if it didn’t," Barnes explained. "Justice is supposed to be good, and in this case, I think justice was given to me by God."

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