Man charged in brutal death of Russell County woman

Joshua Lamont Lee - Photo credit: Southwest Virginia Regional Jail

A Russell County man is now charged in the violent death of his girlfriend.

Joshua Lamont Lee was charged today with first-degree murder in the killing of Santana Martin Hale.

"It's like I told her. You're going to love him til you're dead and she did," Christine Wright said. Wright is Hale's aunt. She is still grieving over the loss of her 29-year-old niece. She saw the fun-loving girl find trouble in her long-time boyfriend and now accused murderer.

"Growing up she was always smiling, she was a full of life child. She was about 15 or 16 when she first met Josh. That's when the drugs and the party life started becoming an issue with her," Wright said.

Lee is now charged with first-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, strangulation, and abduction all related to Hale's November 5 death.

"The murder charge, as well as the aggravated malicious wounding both carry between 20 years and life in prison. Strangulation carries five years in the penitentiary. Abduction carries up to 10 years in the penitentiary," Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Patton said.

Lee has a criminal history dating back two decades, some of that history but not all related to Hale.

"Over the course of that relationship, there have been numerous charges related to domestic violence. Protective orders have been issued and been in place," Sheriff Steve Dye said.

A slew of convictions involved violent assaults. He was on supervised probation at the time of the murder for a felony theft.

This killing has shook an entire community.

Dye said, "We do have many more domestic violence offenses than we should have, than you would want to have, but we don't have a lot of extremely violent crime. When something like this happens, it really shakes a community. "

It leaves a family wanting justice.

"He took her life and we want to see him in prison for the rest of his life. A life sentence isn't enough. We want to make sure he never wants to walk the grounds again," Wright said.

It also leaves them wanting to spread the message to domestic assault victims.

"If you're in that situation. Get out. Find help," she said.

Lee is being held without bond in the Haysi Regional Jail. He is expected back in court in January.