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Drug Dealer, Murderer Is Moved to Death Row

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Originally published July 14, 2002, in the Prince William edition.

Two weeks after he was sentenced to death for hiring a high school buddy to kill his marijuana supplier, Justin Michael Wolfe, 21, was transferred Thursday from the Prince William County jail to Virginia’s death row in Waverly, Va.

Wolfe, of Centreville, joined 23 other condemned murderers on death row at the Sussex I prison. Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said Wolfe has been placed in a solitary cell under highest security.

Considered among the state’s most dangerous criminals, Wolfe will have no contact with the general prison population.

In January, Prince William jurors found Wolfe guilty of capital murder for hiring his friend -- Owen Merton Barber IV -- to kill Daniel Robert Petrole Jr., a drug distributor who had been selling high-grade marijuana and the party drug Ecstasy throughout the region.

Barber testified at Wolfe’s trial that he was hired to kill Petrole in exchange for money and drugs. According to testimony, Wolfe stood to erase a debt of about $80,000 and would have made off with several pounds of marijuana. Barber, who faces life in prison on first-degree murder charges, is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Prince William Chief Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. upheld Wolfe’s recommended death sentence on June 27, and Wolfe’s requests for a new trial were denied Wednesday.

Wolfe has consistently maintained his innocence. On Wednesday, after he testified that he had no more money for his defense, Wolfe walked toward his lawyers and said quietly: “And I’m innocent, for the record.”

A preliminary execution date has been set for Oct. 28, but there are mandatory appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court. According to the Department of Corrections, death row inmates stay in the Sussex I prison a little more than seven years, on average, before their sentences are carried out.

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