Federal prosecutors to seek death penalty for ex-Marine facing murder charge

February 29, 2012

Federal prosecutors in Virginia will seek the death penalty for a former U.S. Marine accused in the July 2009 slaying of a 20-year-old Navy petty officer at a base in Arlington County, according to court papers filed Wednesday.

Jorge Avila Torrez, 23, of Arlington, last year was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Amanda Jean Snell in her barracks room at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, where both were stationed. At the time, Torrez was a corporal.

Authorities have not said how or why Snell was killed, but prosecutors allege that the slaying was premeditated.

“The defendant . . . has displayed no remorse for the murder of Amanda Jean Snell; rather the defendant bragged about killing Snell and the thrill it provided,” prosecutors wrote in the papers filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Torrez’s attorneys declined to comment.

Torrez is already serving five life terms, plus 168 years, at the Red Onion State Prison for the February 2010 rape and abduction of a University of Maryland graduate student and the attack of her friend, and the attempted gunpoint abduction of another woman a few weeks earlier.

In the first attack, Torrez forced both women inside the friend’s house in Arlington and bound them. Torrez raped the graduate student and then drove her to a wooded area in Prince William County, where he sodomized her, choked her and left her for dead.

DNA evidence has also linked Torrez to the 2005 killing of two girls, Krystal Tobias, 9, and Laura Hobbs, 8, at a park in his hometown of Zion, Ill., prosecutors said in court papers. The perpetrator stabbed Tobias 11 times and Hobbs about 20 times, including cuts to both of her eyes. Torrez has not been charged in the case.

Prosecutors said Torrez’s long and violent record, his lack of remorse for Snell’s death and the likelihood that he will commit future acts of violence were factors that led them to seek the death penalty in Snell’s case, according to court filings.

“Torrez told another prisoner that he would kill a guard if he were sentenced to life imprisonment so that he could get the death penalty,” prosecutors wrote.

Under federal guidelines, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made the decision to seek the death penalty against Torrez. It is the first such case in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria since David Anthony Runyon was sentenced to death in 2009 as part of a murder-for-hire plot in Newport News.

Torrez is scheduled to go before a U.S. District Court judge in Alexandria on Thursday for a status hearing. Attorneys will discuss a trial date and other preliminary matters.

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