Page 2 of 2   <      

Virginia executes man in 1999 murder of woman, rape of her sister

"From the get-go, if anyone deserved the death penalty, Paul Powell deserved it," Ebert said. "I've been in this business a long time, and I'm pretty callous. This case is more tragic than most I've witnessed because of the ages and the personalities of the victims. You can imagine the horror that went on in that basement as Kristie begged for her life. I got emotionally involved."

Ebert, who witnessed his second execution in five months and his first electrocution, said Powell's death "was a much more gentle death than Stacie's."

Powell has never denied what happened in the Reed house. He told police that Stacie Reed, 16, "got stuck" with a large survival knife during an argument, according to court records. She broke a fingernail on Powell's face and continued to fight after she was stabbed, falling lifeless into her sister's room.

Powell waited around the house for Kristie Reed to come home, showed the teenager her sister's body, then forced her into the basement, where he ordered her to strip naked, raped her, choked her, then cut and stabbed her.

Powell left her for dead.

Powell and Stacie Reed had begun socializing shortly before the slaying. Whoberry had never met him, and Kristie Reed had just recently learned his last name. Powell told authorities that on the day of the killing, he became angry with Stacie when she refused his sexual advances and instead took a phone call from her boyfriend.

"I knew from the moment I saw her that she was gone," Kristie said, slowly recounting her fright in seeing her sister's body. "Stacie put up a fight, but I'm not a fighter. If I know my life's in jeopardy, I'll do whatever you say. I did what he told me to do. He told me to go into the basement, and I did."

Kristie identified Powell immediately, and police found him just hours later at a friend's house. The sheath of his knife had Stacie's blood on it, and police found a drawstring from Powell's striped sweat shirt under Stacie's body. Powell wore that sweat shirt during his first interview with Richard Leonard, who was then a Prince William police detective.

Leonard, who knew Powell from some small-time trouble he had caused in high school, had a rapport with him and quickly got him to admit his crimes. He said Powell had the hardest time discussing his assault on Kristie because he thinks Powell was ashamed of it.

Jennifer Wasko, the forewoman on the jury that first convicted Powell and who later testified on his behalf, has also been through quite an ordeal. The trial scarred her, and her relationship with Powell tore apart her family and professional life. Now remarried, in a new career and living in West Virginia, she now wishes she had never contacted Powell after the trial. She said she felt pity for someone she considered "crazy and lost" and wanted to help him.

Wasko spent hours on the phone with Powell and exchanged letters with him that she said ranged from sweet to hateful. The conversations petered out over time, but Wasko said she received a birthday message from him every year. After Powell sent his tirade to Ebert, Wasko said she felt no more responsibility for him.

"Everything that happened, he did it, he did it to himself," said Wasko, who during the first trial went by Jennifer Day. "I can sleep at night now. He did what he did, and he's getting what he deserves."

Whoberry, who is deeply spiritual, has forgiven Powell, and she told him that in a letter in February 2008. She believes his sentence is just and supported his execution, but she believes Stacie Reed's legacy should be Stacie's, not Powell's.

"That hole in your heart will never be filled," Whoberry said. "I miss hearing her voice. I miss her smile. We lost so much that we'll never get back. I've forgiven him, but I haven't forgotten. Death is not the final and ultimate place. The final destination is heaven or hell."

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company