Inmate’s letter prompts indictment

MANASSAS — A Manassas-area man whose capital murder conviction was overturned earlier this year was indicted Monday by a grand jury on another capital charge, based on new evidence contained in a letter he sent to the Prince William commonwealth’s attorney.

Paul Warner Powell, 23, is serving three life sentences in connection with the Jan. 29, 1999, rape and attempted murder of Kristie Reed, of Yorkshire, who was 14 at the time of the attack.

Powell has admitted stabbing and killing her older sister Stacie Reed, who was 16.

He was convicted in May 2000 on a charge of capital murder for the killing of Stacie Reed followed by the assault of her sister.

The Virginia Supreme Court, however, overturned the capital conviction in April, saying the murder of one girl followed by the assault of another did not constitute capital murder. The court also said that Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert erroneously amended the capital murder indictment against Powell.

Powell, who has been held at Sussex 1 State Prison as he awaits trial on a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Stacie Reed, sent Ebert a letter dated Oct. 21, saying “there is more to the story” than evidence presented at his trial.

In the letter, Powell described how he attempted to rape Stacie Reed before stabbing her in her home.

Ebert presented that new evidence to a Prince William grand jury Monday, which indicted Powell on a capital murder charge, Ebert said.

A trial date will be set today.

In the letter, Powell said that he would “tell you the rest of what happened” because the Supreme Court overturned the capital murder conviction and death sentence.

Powell taunted Ebert and described him with obscenities, saying mistakes Ebert made during the trial doomed the conviction.

Ebert said Monday that he thinks Powell wrote the letter believing he could only be tried on a charge of first-degree murder, which carries a maximum of life in prison.

Powell wrote: “Tell the family to be ready to testify and relive it all again because if I have to suffer for the next 50 or 60 years or however long then they can suffer the torment of reliving what happened for a couple days.”

The Reed family was made aware of the letter, Ebert said.

Ebert plans to prosecute Powell for the murder of Stacie Reed during the attempted rape of the girl, and plans to seek the death penalty.

“He’s saying that he was wanting to have sex with her, she wouldn’t do it, so he stabbed her,” Ebert said. “It was always a suspicion, but there was no evidence of that [before the Oct. 21 letter].”

Powell, who has written several letters to Ebert since the trial, ended the Oct. 21 letter by saying: “Well, die a slow painful, miserable death. See ya punk.”

Powell did not testify at his trial.

Prosecutors presented evidence that he was upset that his acquaintance Stacie, who is white, had begun dating a black youth.

Powell argued with Stacie, fatally stabbing her three times, then sipped a glass of iced tea. When Stacie’s younger sister arrived home from school, Powell forced her down to the basement, assaulted her and stabbed her neck and stomach, then left.

Kristie Reed survived the attack and testified against Powell during his trial.

Virginia law states that a capital murder charge can be brought if someone commits murder in the commission of a felony such as abduction with intent to defile, rape or attempted rape, or robbery.

Although the Supreme Court overturned Powell’s capital murder conviction, it upheld convictions on charges of abduction, rape and attempted capital murder of Kristie Reed. Powell was sentenced to life in prison — the maximum — on each of those charges.

Staff writer Patrick Wilson can be reached at (703) 368-7449.

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