Convicted killer facing Va. death penalty suspected of more slayings in Calif.

Alfredo Prieto
Alfredo Prieto (Rich Lipski - Twp)
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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A man facing the death penalty in Fairfax County for two murders, and who was convicted of a third in California, is now a suspect in two more California homicides committed in the same fashion, his attorneys revealed in court Monday.

If Alfredo R. Prieto is charged with the two slayings in Riverside County, Calif., he then will have been charged with six homicides and four rapes -- allegedly all of them committed at the time of the killings -- in slightly more than two years between 1988 and 1990. He has not been charged with the most recently revealed cases, which occurred in the seven months after he moved from Arlington County to California and were linked to him by DNA matches.

All of the victims were shot.

Riverside County authorities declined to discuss the cases there Monday, saying they needed to meet with the victims' families first. Last year, the Riverside County sheriff's department submitted DNA samples from five unsolved homicide cases to a lab in Texas, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Investigators declined then to disclose the cases from which the DNA samples were taken. The samples were to be loaded into the national DNA databank to check for possible matches.

That method was used to link Prieto to the Virginia slayings and resulted in his extradition in 2006. Fairfax cold-case detectives resubmitted DNA samples in the case of Rachael A. Raver and Warren H. Fulton III, both 22, who were found shot to death outside Reston in 1988. The samples matched Prieto, who was in prison in California for another rape-murder.

In 2008, a Fairfax jury convicted Prieto of raping Raver and murdering her and Fulton. The jury sentenced Prieto to death, but the Virginia Supreme Court last year ordered the sentencing phase to be done again, because the verdict form didn't allow for a particular option that could have resulted in a life sentence.

Jury selection began Sept. 7 for Prieto's resentencing in Fairfax. Last week, according to a defense brief, Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh informed Prieto's attorneys that he had been told of a "DNA profile hit" in the "killing of a young couple in the Ontario, Calif., area in approximately 1990, with the female alleged to have been raped."

Defense attorneys Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro asked for a mistrial in the pending Fairfax case so that they could research the new California cases. "Some of the evidence in the new California allegations may be of assistance to Mr. Prieto," the attorneys wrote, "in not only the pending sentencing hearing, but also other prosecutions."

Morrogh said he learned of the DNA match only after jury selection began. In a hearing before Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows, Morrogh said an investigator in Riverside called and asked him if a plea deal could be cut in Fairfax in exchange for Prieto's cooperation in California.

But Morrogh said he hadn't received any written confirmation of the DNA hit. "It's my judgment we cannot get this evidence in at this stage of the proceedings," Morrogh said. "So I am not going to put it in."

Bellows declined to declare a mistrial. "The Commonwealth has taken it [the California cases] off the table for purposes of this trial," the judge said.

Morrogh still plans to argue for a death sentence in Fairfax.

In the late 1980s, Prieto lived in Arlington with his girlfriend and son. In May 1988, according to a DNA match, he raped Veronica "Tina" Jefferson and then shot her to death. He was charged in that killing, but has not been prosecuted.

Seven months later, in December 1988, Prieto somehow encountered Raver and Fulton after they left a sports bar in the District. Their bodies were found in a vacant lot off Hunter Mill Road, nowhere near either victim's home.

Court records show that Prieto moved to California in February 1990, apparently stealing the identity of his girlfriend's brother. In 1990, he and two other men raped three women in Ontario, Calif. The other men stabbed their victims, who lived. Prieto shot 15-year-old Yvette Woodruff, who died. He was arrested four days later, convicted of murder and given the death penalty.

But his appeals in California, now 18 years along, are not moving, court records show. Virginia extradited him in hopes of convicting and executing him. Jury selection in Fairfax is continuing.

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