Prieto sentenced to death for Fairfax murders

Alfredo R. Prieto
Alfredo R. Prieto
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 2010; 10:56 PM

A Fairfax County jury imposed two death sentences Friday on serial killer Alfredo R. Prieto for the murders of Rachael A. Raver and Warren H. Fulton III near Reston in December 1988.

The jury was told that Prieto, 44, had been sentenced to death for a 1990 rape and murder in California and that he was linked by DNA to a fourth slaying, in Arlington County in May 1988. But jurors were not told that ballistics tests link Prieto to a fifth homicide, in Prince William County in 1989.

Neither did they learn that authorities in California are linking Prieto to four additional slayings there, involving a pair of abductions and double homicides in spring 1990. That would link Prieto to nine killings in slightly more than two years.

Prieto has been incarcerated in California since his arrest there in 1990, and he has been on death row since 1992 for the rape and murder of Yvette Woodruff, 15.

In 2005, Fairfax's cold case homicide unit resubmitted the DNA from the unsolved rape and shooting of Raver and the killing of her boyfriend, Fulton, in an empty lot near Hunter Mill Road. At some point after Prieto entered San Quentin State Penitentiary, his DNA was entered into a national database, and it matched the semen left at the scene of Raver's killing.

Then-Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. decided that Virginia could extradite Prieto and convict and execute him more quickly than California, where Prieto's appeals had already lasted for 13 years. But Horan could not foresee the tortuous road ahead for the prosecutors, police, defense attorneys and surviving family members.

In 2007, after a six-week trial, a mistrial was declared when a juror claimed he had been pressured into convicting Prieto. In 2008, after an eight-week trial, Prieto was convicted again and sentenced to death. But the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the verdict form given to jurors was incorrect and ordered a resentencing.

And so, Raver's and Fulton's families returned to Fairfax for a third time. Raver, of Yorktown, N.Y., had recently graduated from George Washington University and lived in Alexandria at the time she was killed. Fulton, a senior and baseball captain at George Washington, lived with his parents in Vienna.

Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, who had been Horan's chief deputy for the first two trials (Horan retired in 2007), took over the prosecution, while attorneys Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro launched their third defense of Prieto.

This time, the jury was empaneled simply to decide whether Prieto should be executed. Jurors were told of the Woodruff killing and that an earlier jury had convicted Prieto of capital murder in the slayings of Raver and Fulton.

The defense team did not, as it did in the first two trials, posit that Prieto was mentally retarded and thus ineligible for a death sentence. Instead, it presented extensive evidence of Prieto's horrific upbringing in war-torn El Salvador.

Prieto regularly saw dead and mutilated bodies in the street, his father brutalized his mother before going to prison, and he watched guerrillas murder his grandfather before he legally entered this country with his mother at age 15. She had left the family six years earlier. Two experts testified about the lasting damage done by exposure to war, poverty, abuse and abandonment.

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