Youth Enters Plea to Charge of Concealing Body

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A South Riding youth acknowledged yesterday in Loudoun County juvenile court that there is enough evidence to convict him of dumping a friend's body in an elementary school parking lot, but the judge said she would delay a decision in his case until he completes a probationary period.

The 17-year-old entered what is known as an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt but conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence for a conviction. However, Judge Pamela L. Brooks said she will lower the charge to a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, if he successfully completes a 12-month probation period.

The Washington Post generally does not identify teenagers prosecuted as juveniles.

The teenager and a 16-year-old were charged with a felony, concealing the body of Peter Johannes Cathcart Vold, 19, who died after drinking too much hard liquor at a party the night of June 17.

The teenagers drove him to Little River Elementary School, on Hyland Hills Street in South Riding, and left him in the parking lot, authorities said. His body was found there about 2:20 a.m. the next day, and the medical examiner ruled that Vold died of alcohol poisoning.

The 17-year-old and his father declined to comment after his court appearance. His attorney, Rhonda W. Paice, said her client was trying to "do the right thing" the night of the party, whereas others in attendance stood idly by.

"The irony of this case to me is that there were a lot of people involved, and a couple of people got charged," Paice said after the hearing. "They were the ones trying to do the right thing. . . . They were hoping someone would find this young man."

Vold was drinking 150-proof rum with friends at a popular South Riding area teen hangout, a wooded area near a pond that is secluded from the roadway, according to authorities and Vold's father.

After he passed out, he was driven to a house and left in the car while others went inside, authorities said. Later, Vold was found dead in the car, and rather than call for help, the two teenagers drove him to the school lot, authorities said.

Asked why her client did not take Vold's body to a hospital, Paice said she did not know. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ryan W. Perry called the incident "incredibly tragic."

"They made incredibly, incredibly stupid and irresponsible decisions," Perry said. "Everyone involved bears some culpability for the death . . . but criminally . . . the two that were charged are the two that took his body off and dumped him in the elementary school parking lot."

The terms of the probation have not been finalized and will be reviewed in a January hearing. Perry said the youth's probation probably would include community service, abstaining from illegal activity and possibly speaking at schools about the risks of underage drinking. Perry said the two teenagers have no previous criminal records.

The 16-year-old, of Woodbridge, was not in court because he had not been served with charging documents, the result of a mix-up with his address, Perry said. However, he is now in contact with authorities and could be served as soon as today, Perry said.

Ryan B. McNeill, 24, of Fairfax County, has been charged with buying the teenagers alcohol and is due in court Dec. 4.

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