DNA Leads to Suspect in 1988 N.Va. Killings
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Nearly 17 years after three people were abducted and shot to death in Northern Virginia -- a CIA financial officer behind an Arlington elementary school and two college students in a Reston field -- police believe they have found their killer sitting on death row in a California prison.
Preliminary tests show that DNA taken from convicted killer Alfredo R. Prieto, 39, matches samples from the two crime scenes, according to court records.
In May 1988, Veronica "Tina" Jefferson, 24, was raped and fatally shot behind McKinley Elementary School in Arlington. Seven months later, Rachael Raver and her boyfriend, Warren H. Fulton, both 22 and George Washington University students, were abducted after leaving a restaurant in the District, taken to a field along Hunter Mill Road and fatally shot. Raver also was raped.
In 2000, Virginia's DNA database revealed that the same person was involved in both unsolved cases but provided no suspects. Then, last month, came a bolt out of the blue.
Technicians in California entered Prieto's DNA into a national database. According to an affidavit filed in Marin County, Calif., by Fairfax County Detective Robert J. Murphy, Prieto's DNA matched the samples entered from Virginia's three killings.
Prieto received the death penalty for raping and killing a 15-year-old girl in San Bernardino County, Calif., in 1990. In that case, three women were abducted and raped by three men, but only Prieto's victim was shot; the other two survived stabbings.
Jefferson's father, Henry Jefferson, said yesterday that he was "speechless" when he got a call from Ray Harp, an Arlington homicide lieutenant, telling him about the break in the case. "I broke down and started crying," he said. "For a 62-year-old man, that's something." He said he had never given up hope that the case would be solved.
Deidre Raver, Rachael Raver's sister, said: "I was so happy, and I was very emotional when I found out. It was such a big release, because it has always bothered us."
On Sept. 12, Fairfax and Arlington detectives visited San Quentin State Prison with a California search warrant to take a sample of the inmate's DNA, which Prieto provided. He declined to answer questions, sources familiar with the case said.
Prieto apparently lived in Arlington with a wife and child in the 1980s, according to sources close to the investigation. Testimony at his California murder trial indicated that he was a native of El Salvador who moved to this country in 1981.
Prieto's DNA was returned to Virginia's crime lab, where it will be tested for confirmation that it matches the DNA from the Jefferson and Fulton-Raver cases. Investigators expect a final result within about a month, Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said yesterday.
Jefferson, 24, had been shopping at a Giant grocery store near Columbia Pike on May 10, 1988, when she was last seen. Her body was found about 2:30 the next morning.