Two Death Sentences In '88 Fairfax Killings

Alfredo R. Prieto's attorneys had attempted to convince the jury that he was mentally retarded.
Alfredo R. Prieto's attorneys had attempted to convince the jury that he was mentally retarded. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Fairfax County judge yesterday handed Alfredo R. Prieto two death sentences in the slayings of a young couple 20 years ago, saying he could not fathom "the desperation, horror and sheer terror" Prieto inflicted on them in a field near Reston.

"On the night you executed them," Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows told Prieto, "you turned the final moments of their life into what could be described as a living hell."

Prieto, 42, was convicted in February of the rape and murder of Rachael A. Raver and the murder of Warren H. Fulton III, both 22, in December 1988. Prieto's attorneys then tried to convince the jury that the defendant, with an IQ of about 70, was mentally retarded and not eligible for the death penalty. After three weeks of testimony, the jury rejected the retardation defense and said Prieto should die for both killings.

Prieto is on death row in California for the 1990 rape and killing of 15-year-old Yvette Woodruff in Ontario, Calif. As a result of his incarceration there, his DNA was entered into a nationwide DNA data bank. In 2005, that data bank provided a hit out of the blue on the DNA left at the scene of Raver's and Fulton's slayings near Hunter Mill Road on Dec. 4, 1988. Prieto is suspected in two other slayings in Arlington and Prince William counties.

Former Fairfax commonwealth's attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who retired in the fall but stayed with the Fairfax case, sought Prieto's extradition to Virginia, despite the California death sentence, because Prieto's appeals were moving slowly and in 2005 were expected to take 10 more years. Horan obtained two murder indictments against Prieto in November 2005, and California agreed to send him to Virginia in April 2006.

Nine of the jurors in the Fairfax case, as well as many of Raver's relatives, sat in Bellows's courtroom yesterday to find out whether he would uphold their verdict. And when Bellows, a father of five, looked at and spoke of the families of Raver and Fulton, he teared up and his voice cracked.

"You ruined their lives," Bellows told Prieto. "They will never, never recover. I could not put it better than Mrs. [Jackie] Fulton did when she said that the bullet you put in her son went through him and lodged in her heart."

Prieto, given the opportunity to make a statement, said: "I have nothing to say, by lawyer's advice." He plans to appeal.

Prieto did not react when Bellows sentenced him to death, twice, and imposed consecutive sentences of life, 20 years and six years for the rape, theft of Raver's car and use of a gun. It was the first death sentence issued in Fairfax since the 1998 sentencing of Mir Aimal Kasi for the fatal shootings of two CIA employees outside the agency's headquarters in Langley in 1993.

As Prieto rose to be escorted from the courtroom, Raver's brother Matthew leaned over and said, "Hey, Prieto, go to your room." Prieto shook his head but said nothing. Matthew Raver later said that Prieto "likes to have control, so I wanted to let him know he wouldn't have control anymore."

Veronica Raver, Rachael Raver's mother, traveled from Yorktown, N.Y., one last time to watch a case that went through one five-week trial that ended in a mistrial in the summer and then an eight-week retrial this year, virtually all of which she sat through. "We're pleased and thank God it's over," she said after the sentencing. "It's everything I prayed for. I'm still trembling." Then she turned and mildly scolded her son for speaking to Prieto.

Police say they think Prieto intercepted Raver and Fulton somewhere between a sports bar in the District and Fairfax, and forced them to drive at gunpoint to an unlit lot that is now occupied by houses. Horan theorized that Prieto ordered Fulton to his knees and shot him once in the back. Horan said Raver then ran, was shot once in the back and raped as she lay dying.

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