Virginia Beach man goes on trial for the slayings of his girlfriend, her dog and his stepfather

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VIRGINIA BEACH — The trial for a man accused of a three-day crime spree that began with him fatally shooting his girlfriend the first day, slaying his stepfather within the next day or two, and then going back to his girlfriend’s house to set it and her dog on fire got underway Monday.

Cola Beale IV, 32, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder, killing an animal, arson and other related charges. If convicted of either of the aggravated murder counts, Virginia law requires that he be sentenced to life in prison.

Beale also is charged with killing his cousin in Norfolk a few days after the first two slayings. That case is scheduled to be tried in May.

The Virginia Beach trial got started Monday with jury selection, opening statements and testimony from the lead detective. It’s expected to last at least three days.

Among the first pieces of evidence Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael DeFricke presented was a videotaped confession Beale gave to detectives shortly after his arrest.

Beale’s girlfriend, Czavi’er Hill, 31, was found with a gunshot to the head on March 24, 2022, when firefighters rushed to her townhome in the 5500 block of Baccalaureate Drive in Virginia Beach. Her car was found in a neighborhood that same day, after it also had been set on fire.

Clifton Baxter, 73, a former boyfriend of Beale’s mother who Beale referred to as his stepfather in interviews, was found in his home with a gunshot wound to the head the day after that.

Beale was arrested in Hampton about a week after the killing spree began. He gave interviews to The Virginian-Pilot and other local media outlets from jail, during which he said he felt no remorse and probably would have killed more people if he hadn’t been arrested.

In a taped interview at the Virginia Beach police headquarters, Beale repeatedly admitted to committing the crimes. During the nearly two hours he spoke with detectives, he was at times yelling and cursing about problems in his life. At other times, he seemed relaxed as he leaned back in his chair with his feet propped up on another chair in front of him.

He told detectives he was upset over a variety of things, including losing his restaurant job, being convicted of a sex crime he said he didn’t commit, and problems with his probation in another case. He said he also was angry about Hill’s mother interfering in their relationship, and claimed she was bothered by the fact that he didn’t have a job.

“Why did you kill her?” detective Chris Jachimiak asked Beale about the slaying of Hill.

“It was a buildup, man,” Beale replied.

Beale said he tied Hill up after they got into an argument. He said he then poured bleach on her dog — a small black and tan pet named Prince — and pulled out a lighter. He said Hill jumped up and begged him not to hurt the dog.

“She said, ‘He had nothing to do with this,'” Beale told the detective. “She said, ‘Take me. Take my life instead.'”

Beale said he had intended to let Hill go, but after she said that he decided to shoot her.

He said he shot Baxter because he had a lot of money and would only give Beale small amounts when he asked for cash. He stole numerous guns and a safe from Baxter’s house afterward, he said.

Beale told detectives he went back to Hill’s house and set it on fire because it had been two days since he killed her and her body hadn’t been found yet. He said he poured gasoline on the dog and watched as it was burned alive.

Afterward, he took Hill’s car to a residential area, where he set it on fire.

When Jachimiak asked why he did that, Beale said he was still angry.

“I was seeing a lot of red,” he said. “I was really mad.”

Jane Harper, jane.harper@pilotonline.com