A Prince William County grand jury indicted three men yesterday under Virginia's new "feticide" law in two unrelated attacks on pregnant women who were slain along with their fetuses.
Jorge Vazquez-Hernandez was indicted on charges of murder and the unintentional killing of a fetus in the October fatal stabbing of a pregnant salesclerk in Manassas, Rosa Isabel Umana, 30, prosecutors said.
In an attack last month, Carlos Diangilo Williams, 26, was indicted on charges of murder and the intentional killing of a fetus in the beating with a baseball bat of his former girlfriend, Cheri Washington, 17, prosecutors said.
Two of Williams's relatives also have been charged in the slaying and turned themselves in yesterday, police said. If convicted, Williams, who was also charged with abduction, faces a maximum prison sentence of life plus 50 years.
Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said at a news conference yesterday that he was disappointed that he could not seek the death penalty for Williams. But Ebert said there is no evidence to prove that Williams purposely killed the Hylton High School student, a requirement under state law to pursue a capital murder case.
"His intention was only to kill the fetus. Otherwise, it would have been capital. It is a horrendous crime . . ." said Ebert, joined by Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane. "If there was ever a capital case, I wish this was it."
The cases are among the first to test the state's feticide law, which took effect July 1. If the killing was premeditated, the sentence range is 20 years to life in prison. If it is not premeditated, then the sentence is between five and 40 years.
Stephen James Covington Jr., 18, who police said gave Williams the baseball bat, was indicted on charges of murder, killing a fetus and abduction. A 17-year-old was charged on a juvenile petition as an accessory after the fact on charges of murder, killing a fetus and abduction. Covington and the juvenile lived with Williams in the 14800 block of Dixon Court, police said. If tried as an adult and convicted, he would face up to 12 months on each charge.
Law enforcement officials said that Washington, who was five months pregnant and wanted to have the child, went to Williams's home early Jan. 27 to talk about her pregnancy but that Williams became enraged.
He "did not want her to have a baby, and he was going to kill the unborn child," Deane said yesterday.
Williams held her against her will at his home for several hours, pounded her stomach with a baseball bat and kicked and stomped on her, police said. Deane said one of the accomplices arrested in connection with the attack covered up the crime afterward.
Ebert said Williams, believed to be the unborn child's father, had learned of Washington's pregnancy the day before the attack or the day it occurred. Williams allowed her to leave and ordered her to tell other people a "story that didn't involve him" if asked about her injuries, Ebert said.
After walking away from the home shortly before 2 p.m. that day, she collapsed. A motorist found her, and the teenager was later taken to Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge. Police interviewed Washington, whose fetus was dead, at the hospital. Washington was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she died the next morning.
Police seized the bat, a large kitchen knife, a pair of rubber gloves and duct tape from the home, according to search warrants filed in court.
Natasha Washington, 23, the victim's sister, said the family is upset that prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty. "He took two lives, but whether it's in prison or not, he gets to wake up every morning," she said. "I don't think he deserves to get to live."
Natasha Washington said she has never met and does not know those charged in her sister's slaying.
Umana, who was also five months pregnant, was fatally stabbed while at work at a general store in Manassas on Oct. 11, police said.
A jail officer testified in a court hearing last month that Vazquez-Hernandez told him that he stabbed her because he got mad that she followed him every time he visited the store.
Ebert said the assailant did not know she was pregnant, which is why Vazquez-Hernandez was charged with the unintentional killing of the fetus, as well as murder.