One September day in 1997, Clinton resident Diana Medina, 19, needed a lift to work, so she accepted a ride from Nathan Dante Young, a young man she had met three weeks before when he came into the pizza restaurant where she worked.
On Sept. 13, 1997, her body, riddled with bullets and naked from the waist down, was found by the side of Interstate 66 in Fauquier County.
Suspicion fell on Young, and he was quickly arrested. Fauquier prosecutors dropped the charges a week before trial, however, saying to Medina's family that they didn't have enough evidence.
But yesterday a federal judge in Alexandria sentenced Young, 24, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for interstate kidnapping leading to Medina's murder. "The sadness and the viciousness of this crime, the tragedy of it, are beyond words," said U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. "We can only hope that the sentence will stand as some deterrent to others."
After the charges were dropped in Fauquier, federal officials were able to use the subpoena power of a federal grand jury to force Young's friends and associates to talk, a power that most Virginia grand juries do not have. Young's friends eventually testified in court that in the days after Medina's death, he had bragged about killing women who did not submit to his sexual advances.
"We're very pleased with the results. They have an ability through the contempt process to force people to give evidence that we can't," said Fauquier County Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney J. Gregory Ashwell, referring to federal prosecutors.
Though it is possible for Virginia authorities to convene a special investigative grand jury, the process is "unwieldy," Ashwell said. Because the case had a clear interstate angle--Young drove Medina from Maryland to D.C. and then to Virginia--"it made it very easy for us to allow them to take it over," Ashwell said.
The youngest of three children, Medina had recently graduated from Surrattsville High School and was considering going into the Air Force, said her mother, Pyboon Medina, 50. "She was a wonderful girl. She was too trusting of everybody," her father Kevin said.
On the day her daughter disappeared, Pyboon Medina said she begged her not to go with Young, who had been calling the house two or three times a day. "I said, 'Don't go with him. You don't know him,' " she said.
But Medina agreed to go with Young to her sister's home to watch a movie. Eventually Medina said she needed to go to work, and she and Young left together.
At his September trial, Young said the two tried to have sex but he was unable to perform. He claimed he then went to his grandmother's home to sleep while Medina went off with his high school classmate, Ashon Henderson.
Young claimed Henderson had admitted to raping Medina, shoving her in the trunk of Young's rental car, driving her to Fauquier and using Young's gun to shoot her. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin W. Williams said Young was likely describing his own actions.
Young did not comment at yesterday's sentencing hearing, except to say that he plans to appeal his conviction.
Medina's death was only the beginning of her family's nightmare.
In the days before Fauquier authorities dropped their charges, Kevin Medina, 46, said Young drove up and down the street in front of the Medinas' house eight to 10 times a day and once said, "If you don't stop messing with me, you'll end up dead like your daughter."
In April 1998, Young grabbed a gun and chased Pyboon Medina after she drove by his Clinton home. He was convicted of assault in that incident. Young also filed criminal complaints against both Kevin and Pyboon Medina, charging them with stalking. Those charges were dropped.
Yesterday's sentencing, in which Young also was ordered to pay for Diana Medina's funeral, brought some measure of satisfaction to her parents, who had been worried that Young would never be punished for his actions.
Even after the federal investigation, "We were told that there was still only a 50 percent chance of winning," said Kevin Medina. "But he put himself in jail" by spinning a far-fetched tale on the stand, Medina said.