An 18-year old T.C. Williams High School dropout was named yesterday as the suspect in the slayings of five young Northern Virginia women during the past nine months.
Montie Ralph Rissell, who lived in the 400 block of N Armistead ST., Alexandria, was charged late Tuesday with murdering Ursula Miltenberger, 22, whose battered body was found near Burke in western Fairfax County nearly two months ago.
Yesterday, Alexandria prosecutors said they will ask a grand jury to induct Rissell immediately on charges of murdering four ALexandria women whose bodies were found in a mile-square area of western Alexandria near where they and Rissell lived.
The four Alexandria victims were
Atira Marina Gabor, 26, who lived in the same apartment complex on North Armstead Street as Rissell. She was found strangled and lying in a creek near Shirley Highway last August.
Gladys R. Bradley, 27, a distribution clerk in Washington post office who lived in the Holmes Run Apartment Complex near where Rissell and Gabor lived. She was found drowned in a creek elsewhere in Alexandria on April 30.
Jeanette McClelland, 24, a proof-reader in a printing firm who lived in the Holmes Run apartments. She was found stabbled to death in a culvert near Shirley Highway on May 5.
Aletha Byrd, 35, a personnel department employee of Woodward & Lothrep, who also lived in the Holmes Run apartments. Her badly decomposed body was found Tuesday night and identified yesterday from dental records.
As bodies were discovered one by one during the past few weeks and the two previous murders were publicly linked to the more recent crimes, many residents of the western Alexandria neighbourhood along Shirley Highway known as Landmark became afraid to leave their apartments alone or unarmed.
Yesterday police were "satisfied with the apprehension of Rissell," according to Alexandria Police Chief John Holihan. "The fear that has reigned in the minds of many Alexandria residents can now be lessened.
Rissell was officially withdrawn from T.C. Williams High School on April 20 after he apparently stopped attending classes. According to court records, he had been charged with disrupting classes at the John Adams Middle School, burglarizing an apartment, robbery and attempted rape. He has had psychiatric treatment, court records show.
Many of his former classmates said yesterday that cannot believe he is charged with murder. Some describe him as friendly, polite and talkative; others said he had a quick temper, fought frequently and drank a lot.
But to Kenny Langley, 18, who worked and played baseball and basketball with him, Rissell was a "pretty regular person. I still don't believe he did it," Langley said.
Alexandria prosecutors said the special grand jury probably will be convened on Friday to consider returning indictments in the four Alexandria slayings. Police said they do not suspect that robbery or rape was the motive for the murders.
Alexandria and fairfax police said there is nothing to indicate that Rissell knew any of the five dead women.
The police said their big break" in the case came when Byrd's billfold was found lying in Rissell's car yesterday afternoon.
An employee at the gas station where Rissell's car was found said that a search of the car by police produced Byrd's car keys, driver's license, credit cards, and a common kitchen steak knife.
Police officers and prosecutors, pressed by reporters for an explanation why they believe Rissell is suspected of all five murders, said only there is "sufficient evidence" -- including sufficient "physical evidence." in Miltenberger's case according to a Fairfax County police spokesman.
The bodies and cars of the Alexandria victims had all been found within a mile of one another, police noted, and the Alexandria victims lived near one another. Miltenberger lived in Springfield and her body was found miles away near Burke, but she was a management trainee at a McDonald's restaurant near western Alexandria.
All five victims were last seen alive late at night, Fairfax and Alexandria police said.
Alexandria Police Sgt. Archle Hall said police are assuming that all the women were killed at the spot where their bodies were found.
Byrd's body was found Tuesday night near the intersection of Polk and Pegram Streets in Alexandria in a densley wooded area beneath locust and pine trees in a well-to-do residential neighborhood across the street from the playground of the James K. Polk Elementary School.
Rissell was arrested last Friday, in Fairfax County and charged with assault on two youths at a party in the county on April 22. A Fairfax County police spokesman said one youth suffered a broken jaw and another was kicked in the back. No charges were placed against Rissell in connection with the murders at that time, police said yesterday.
Rissell was questioned extensively Friday night by Fairfax and Alexandria police. On Saturday police said they were interviewing several possible suspects in connection with the murders. They said, however, that they did not have enough evidence at that point to charge any suspect with the deaths.
Police refused to comment yesterday about what happened during the weekend, other than to say that the investigation conitnued.
Then, officers said, they got their "big break" on Tuesday, when they found Byrd's wallet in Rissell's car parked in an Alexandria filling station. The car had been towed there two weeks ago from Maryland, according to an employee.
Rissell has an extensive court record. On probation officer's report in 1975 said Rissell "has received all forms of treatment available to the juvenile court. He has been on probation, he has been committed to the state Department of Corrections, and he has received intensive psychiatric treatment in an in-patient setting."
A probation officer wrote in connection with Rissell's incarceration in the state institution, "Psychiatric and psychological evaluations of Montie indicated he was a disturbed youth who was desperately in need of intensive therapy in a closed setting."
Rissell was in Variety Children's Hospitay in Miami, Fla, from Feb. 5, 1974, through Aug. 28, 1975, court records show. The hospital said "he needed to continue psychotherapy at least weekly on an outpatient basis and his mother should be actively involved."
According to the court records, Rissel was born in Wellington, Kan. His parents were separated in 1965, and divorced in 1968. His mother remarried and was divorced again in 1971.
A written probation report in December, 1975, said of Rissell, "He is not committable to an institution for the mentally retarded or mentally ill and the best interests of the community require that (Rissell) be placed under legal restraints or discipline." Rissell eventually went to a private psychiatrist in the District, who before Rissell's sentencing wrote that he was doing "quite well."