Calif. death row inmated convicted of another murder

FAIRFAX, Calif.  A man already on death row in California for one murder was convicted yesterday of capital murder in two decades-old slayings, exposing him to possible execution in Virginia as well.

The Fairfax County jury that convicted Alfredo R. Prieto, 41, in the 1988 killings of college sweethearts Rachael Raver and Warren Fulton will now hear evidence on whether Prieto is eligible for execution. The panel deliberated for about five hours over two days before reaching its verdict.

The defense contends that Prieto is mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Both sides plan to offer testimony during the sentencing phase from mental-health specialists.

The bodies of Miss Raver and Mr. Fulton, both 22-year-old students at George Washington University, were found in a wooded area near Reston on Dec. 6, 1988, a few days after they were seen at a D.C. nightspot. Both had been shot. Miss Raver was also raped. The crime had long been unsolved until a hit in a DNA database recently linked Prieto to the killings.

Even though Prieto has been on death row in California since 1991 for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. pushed to have Prieto extradited to Virginia, where a death sentence is considered more likely to be carried out.
Virginia has executed more criminals since 1976 than any state but Texas and has executed more than seven times as many as California in that time.

Prieto's attorneys acknowledged that the DNA evidence linked Prieto to Miss Raver's rape but said no evidence linked him to the murders. They said hair found on Miss Raver's body judged to be inconsistent with a man of Hispanic origin such as Prieto raised the possibility that someone else committed the killings.

Mr. Horan said the questions about the hair were a red herring.

If the jury rules that Prieto is retarded, he automatically will be sentenced to life in prison for the Fairfax killings.

If they reject the retardation claim, they will hear further evidence on whether Prieto deserves execution or life in prison.

Prieto has also been indicted in Arlington County for the rape and murder of a Veronica "Tina" Jefferson, also in 1988.

DNA evidence links Prieto to that case, which has not yet gone to trial.

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