Man who found victims: 'There is no closure'

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Robert J. Culver still lives in the Manassas home where it happened, still goes about life within the same walls where Paul Warner Powell attacked two teenage sisters, killing one, raping the other.

And so it is understandable if Culver, 45, has a hard time accepting closure.

"You always have the ifs, the ifs, the ifs. What if that day . . . what could I have done?" he said. "There is no closure for the people actually involved."

This week, more than seven years after Culver came home to find Stacie Reed, 16, fatally stabbed through the heart and her sister, Kristie Reed, then 14, raped and repeatedly sliced across the throat, a date was set for Powell's execution. Prince William County Circuit Judge Lon E. Farris decided Powell will die Feb. 15.

But for those close to the case, the decision seems as much about opening wounds as closing them.

Culver said that he has tried to avoid developments in the case and that he and the girls' mother, whom he dated and then married, are now estranged. Still, he talks about that day in vivid detail with anger-tinged words.

"Put me in a room with him and one of us will walk away," he said. "If they let me go in the room with him before the execution . . . "

After the 1999 incident, Powell was twice convicted of capital murder by jurors in Prince William. The first conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court, which determined that it was not a capital case because there was no evidence that Powell had committed or attempted to commit any sexual assault against Stacie Reed before he killed her. A murder is considered a capital offense with a maximum penalty of death if it includes any of a number of factors, including a concurrent rape.

Powell would have faced a lighter charge and sentence, but his next move helped convict him the second time.

After the high court ruling, Powell sent a profanity-filled letter to Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert in which he bragged about concealing parts of his crime, including how he tried to rape Stacie Reed and killed her after she resisted.

"Since I have already been indicted on first degree murder and the Va. Supreme Court said that I can't be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999 to show you how stupid all of y'all . . . are," he wrote.

He detailed how he told Stacie she could "do it the easy way or the hard way," and how she continued to resist him. He then stabbed her and stomped on her neck until she stopped breathing.

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