Convicted killer gets death for Fairfax slayings

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 6, 2010; B01

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 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.

"I'm not trying to tell you those things excuse what he did," Shapiro told jurors. "But you can consider whether his moral culpability is reduced. . . . Kids exposed to this stuff become desensitized. It changes your values. It changes your moral code. It changes the way your brain develops."

Morrogh took the jury back to Dec. 3, 1988, when Raver and Fulton had dinner with Fulton's parents, attended a Christmas party and then went to Mister Day's, a bar in the District. They left after midnight and weren't seen until their bodies were discovered two days later. No one knows how or where Prieto met them.

Prieto has never cooperated with investigators or testified at any of his trials.

Fulton had been shot in the back, the medical examiner found, and Morrogh theorized that Raver, forced to disrobe, then ran terrified through the dark bramble until she was shot in the back, too. Morrogh said Prieto raped Raver as she lay dying.

"Anyone who would commit crimes this dastardly, amoral and inhuman," Morrogh said, "is someone who poses a threat to society."

He pulled out Raver's red shoes for the jury and said that Raver slipped them on in anticipation of a night of fun and that Prieto forced her to take them off and murdered her.

The jury deliberated for eight hours over two days before reaching its verdict. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows will impose the jury's sentence, or reduce it to life without parole, Dec. 16.

In Riverside County, Calif., Stacey Siegrist, 19, and Tony Gianuzzi, 21, were also shot in the back, in May 1990, and Siegrist was raped. Their bodies were found in Rubidoux, Calif., the same place where the car used in Woodruff's murder was found. The killings remained unsolved until Riverside County Sheriff's Department cold case detectives submitted the DNA earlier this year and it matched Prieto, Riverside Sgt. Scott Brown said.

In June 1990 in Ontario, Calif., Herbert and Lula Farley were returning recyclables to a grocery store when Lula Farley, 71, was shot to death and Herbert Farley, 65, was abducted. His body was later found in Rubidoux. Brown said ballistics showed that the gun used to kill the Farleys was used to kill Siegrist and Gianuzzi. Prieto has not been charged in the four newly linked cases.

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