Rape victim testifies in Prieto trial
A California woman who was abducted at gunpoint by Alfredo Prieto in 1990, then raped and stabbed by another man while Prieto was raping and killing her best friend, made a surprise appearance in a Fairfax County courtroom Wednesday to bolster the prosecution's case that Prieto should be executed.
It was a second day of new developments in a trial that has largely been a repeat of two previous prosecutions in Fairfax. On Tuesday, Prieto spoke in court at length for the first time.
Prieto, 44, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Yvette Woodruff, in 1990 in Ontario, Calif. But his appeals in California have lasted for 18 years with no end in sight, so Virginia prosecutors elected to extradite him to Fairfax and try him for the double murders of Rachael A. Raver and Warren H. Fulton III, in a vacant lot near Reston, in December 1988.
A Fairfax jury in 2008 convicted Prieto of capital murder and sentenced him to death, but the Virginia Supreme Court ordered the sentencing phase to be redone.
Now a new jury is in its second week of hearing testimony solely on the issue of whether Prieto should be given a life or death sentence.
As the prosecution's last witness, Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh called a 37-year-old California woman. The Post does not generally identify sexual assault victims, and the woman asked that her name be withheld.
The woman said she and her friend, Woodruff, had followed the woman's mother to a friend's house in Ontario on Sept. 2, 1990. As they pulled in the driveway, the woman said, Prieto suddenly appeared at her driver's side window, and "there was a gun to my head."
Sitting about six feet away from Prieto, the woman testified that Prieto demanded her money and keys, forced her, her mother and Woodruff into the backseat and told them to keep their heads down. Two other men climbed into the front seat with Prieto, she said. They drove off.
Testimony at Prieto's California trial indicated he was a member of a gang called Pomona North Side, and a "PNS" tattoo on his neck still peeks over his dress shirt collars. Woodruff was dating a member of a rival gang, the Ontario Black Angels, and Prieto had just finished robbing another member of that gang when Woodruff and her friend, then 17, pulled in.
One of Prieto's friends in the front seat asked to be let out of the car, the woman testified Wednesday, and did climb out. But Prieto drove to a party and picked up another man, and they eventually headed to an abandoned building surrounded by a field, the woman said.
There, each man took one of the women from the back seat and went in separate directions. The woman said she heard Woodruff crying and asking for help, and then she heard one gunshot -- and then nothing more. Morrogh said Woodruff was shot once in the top of the head.
The woman and her mother were both raped and stabbed, the woman testified. Then, she said, Prieto "came over and asked the guy who had raped me and stabbed me if he had killed me. I knew I was probably going to get stabbed again."
Her assailant stabbed her in the neck, but as he launched a second blow, she said she raised up her hand and his knife struck a large ring she was wearing and the blade snapped. She said she fell to the ground and pretended to be dead "while the guy kicked me and kicked me in my stomach."
The men drove off in her car. She found her mother, then went to her friend. Woodruff was "sitting slumped up against the tree," the woman said.
Then the prosecution rested.
On Thursday, defense lawyers Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro will launch their case that Prieto was deeply damaged by a traumatic upbringing in war-ravaged El Salvador.
They said he entered the United States legally with his mother in 1981, at age 16, attended high school in California, and eventually moved to Arlington. Both sides have lined up mental health experts to testify about Prieto's mental health in 1988, when he shot and killed both Raver and Fulton.
-- Tom Jackman
| October 6, 2010; 5:18 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax, From the Courthouse, Homicide, Tom Jackman, Updates
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