Woman Is Shot, Boyfriend Killed

Koummane Virasith is charged with murder.
Koummane Virasith is charged with murder.
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By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 13, 2008

St. Mary's County recorded its first homicide of the year late Thursday when a Lexington Park man shot his estranged wife and fatally wounded her live-in boyfriend at the apartment complex where the woman and her boyfriend lived on Liberty Street, police said.

Then the man called 911 and waited for officers to respond, police said.

Police said they think Koummane Virasith, 39, went to the Lexington Park apartment complex to talk with his estranged wife, Melissa Lea Virasith, 40, and her boyfriend, Thomas John Saunders, 38. The conversation quickly became heated, and Koummane Virasith shot both of them twice before calling police, said Lt. Rick Burris of the St. Mary's County Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

"He called 911 to advise them that he had shot someone, and then he remained on the scene until we got there," Burris said.

Melissa Virasith was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center, where she was in critical condition Friday. Her husband was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder.

The Virasiths have three children -- ages 8, 10 and 12 -- and a rocky relationship, court records show. Melissa Virasith twice asked courts to issue protective orders against her husband, once successfully in 2003 and unsuccessfully in 2007. Her most recent request alleged that he called her repeatedly and showed up at her house uninvited.

"He recently ran up behind me and grabbed me from behind," she wrote. "He constantly calls my home phone and cellphone at all times of the day and night."

The 2007 request was denied by District Court Judge John F. Slade III, who declined to comment. A box Slade checked on court records indicates he rejected the request because there were "no reasonable grounds to believe that abuse (as defined in the statute) occurred."

In March, Koummane Virasith was charged with malicious destruction of property after his wife accused him of scraping her car with a key and slashing the tires.

Christi Mayhew, 30, a friend of the husband, disputed the suggestion that the man who worked in various area restaurants was stalking his wife. She said Koummane was a loving father who had trouble getting over his relationship with his wife and who wanted to see his children.

"Of course, he got so frustrated he would go over there banging on the door. . . . He wanted to see the kids, and he would come over and see the kids and periodically, she wouldn't let him," said Mayhew, of Lexington Park. "He's not a bad guy. He did a horrible, horrible, horrible thing."

Mayhew recalled a recent conversation she had with Koummane after he purchased a handgun. Mayhew said that she told him that was not a good idea, given his turbulent emotional state, but that he insisted he would not use it to hurt anybody.

"He said, 'Oh, no, no ,no, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do anything stupid,' " Mayhew said. "I've tried to talk to him as much as I could, but I didn't think it would ever, ever go to this at all."

Koummane is being held in the St. Mary's County Detention Center and had not appeared in court by Friday.

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