A Fairfax County man received the maximum sentence — 20 years in prison — for a 2021 shooting at a Springfield home that left two teens dead.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said Zachary Burkard, 20, of Springfield, received two sentences of 10 years each for using a ghost gun in the April 25, 2021 shooting deaths of Ersheen Elaiaiser, 17, and Calvin Van Pelt, 16.
The jury that convicted Burkard of voluntary manslaughter recommended the sentence. Descano says the sentence includes three years of supervision following Burkhard’s release. In August, the jury found him not guilty on charges of murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Burkard was 18 when Elaiaiser and Van Pelt, both students at South County High School, arrived at a home in the 8000 block of Winding Way Court to settle an ongoing dispute that began on social media, Burkard told the jury in August.
The teens had just beaten up a friend of Burkard’s, he said, and he was afraid they would be armed.
“I was scared,” Burkard said, according to an NBC 4 report. “They said they would kill us. I was not prepared for this at all.”
A fistfight erupted when Elaiaiser and Van Pelt, accompanied by two additional teens, arrived at the Springfield residence, Descano said. Burkard shot Elaiaiser twice in the chest, but claimed self defense. Responding police found Van Pelt on the ground outside the home with a gunshot wound to his back.
Prosecutors said Burkard constructed the untraceable ghost gun himself using parts he purchased online, a significant factor in gun violence incidents that Descano called a “scourge on our community.”
“This is a tragic case in which there are no winners,” Descano said. “I hope that with the case finally over, and Burkard receiving the maximum sentence, the victims’ families and friends can begin the process of healing.”