Prieto speaks in Fairfax murder trial
Convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto, who has not testified or spoken at any length through countless hearings and two full murder trials in Fairfax County, spoke in open court in Fairfax for the first time Tuesday, and provided his side of a dispute over whether he has cooperated with a mental health expert for the prosecution.
It was a jaw-dropping moment at the end of an abbreviated day of testimony in Prieto's resentencing for a double murder and rape outside Reston in 1988.
Prieto has watched attentively but sat mute through two previous trials in Fairfax, occasionally answering a judge's questions with a "yes sir." Prieto also did not testify during his capital murder trial in California in 1991, which resulted in a death sentence.
Prieto's lawyers asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows to appoint a mental health expert to examine him to determine his mental state at the time of the December 1988 slayings of Rachael A. Raver and Warren H. Fulton III.
Bellows did so. Prosecutors then hired renowned forensic psychologist Stanton E. Samenow to perform a separate evaluation, and Bellows advised Prieto that he had to cooperate with Samenow, not just the defense expert, or he faced the prospect that the defense expert would not be allowed to testify.
But Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said Prieto has refused to discuss anything related to the slayings of Raver and Fulton, and that he was advised to do so by his lawyers, Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro. So, with the jury out of the courtroom, Bellows turned to Prieto and asked him if that were the case.
"I spoke to Dr. Samenow for six or seven hours," Prieto said, speaking clearly and with a slight Spanish accent. "I answer all his questions. I even ask Dr. Samenow to tape record it."
Bellows asked Prieto if he had refused to discuss the specific events of the case. "I spoke to him about a variety of issues," Prieto said. "I don't know if he wrote it down. Because most of the time he would just argue with me about my responses."
Bellows repeated his question, and Prieto responded, "Some of the questions I could not answer, under the Fifth Amendement, I have a right to remain silent."
Prieto continued, "He asked me some questions about my state of mind. What I said was, I was using a lot of drugs, I was drinking, I gave him a lot of answers. Some of the questions he was taking down, some of the questions, I guess he wanted a different response, he wasn't taking down."
Did Samenow ask Prieto if he had murdered Raver, Bellows asked?
"No sir," Prieto said.
He repeatedly said Samenow had not asked him any specifics about the case. "Some of his other questions, I just said I couldn't answer or I don't recall."
Bellows then said he wasn't sure what Prieto was refusing to answer, and said he would hold a hearing to ask Samenow his version of events. Prieto may then have to testify in response, which would appear to be his first visit to the witness stand since his arrest in 1990 in California.
A DNA hit in 2005 linked him to the earlier killings in Fairfax. A more recent DNA hit has reportedly linked Prieto to two more murders in Riverside County, Calif., and he is also suspected of homicides in Arlington and Prince William counties.
-- Tom Jackman
| October 5, 2010; 5:36 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax, From the Courthouse, Homicide, Tom Jackman, Updates
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