MANASSAS The mother of marijuana dealer Justin Michael Wolfe says she had no idea of her sons deep involvement with drugs.
Teresa C. Steinberg of Fairfax County testified in Prince William Circuit Court on Thursday that she tried to counsel her son after he was caught with marijuana in high school.
But she didnt know he was a drug dealer, she said.
“Im shocked that it was that, that it was that big,” she said of Wolfes drug operations. “I knew that when Justin was in high school that he had some problems with drugs and we went to counseling for more than a year.”
Steinberg was called by Wolfes defense on the seventh day of his trial on charges of capital murder and conspiracy to distribute more than 5 pounds of marijuana.
“It is a bit shocking and disturbing to think that he went through that much money,” she said of her son, who would spend up to $3,000 during a weekend of partying at clubs and using drugs.
Prosecutors allege Wolfe, 20, of Centreville, hired longtime associate Owen Merton Barber IV, 21, to kill Daniel Robert Petrole Jr., 21.
Petrole was providing Wolfe with high-grade marijuana Wolfe then sold in Northern Virginia. Wolfe owed Petrole $66,325 in addition to thousands from a final drug deal the day of the March 15, 2001, shooting.
Barber said Wolfe promised him drugs, $10,000 and forgiveness of a $3,000 debt to kill Petrole so Wolfe could profit; Barber shot him nine times that night outside his town house in the Bristow area of Prince William County.
Wolfes defense rested Thursday, following Wolfes testimony Wednesday that although he dealt marijuana for years, he did not hire Barber to kill Petrole.
Steinberg said she regularly searched Wolfes car and room at her home when he was in school at Fairfax Countys Chantilly High.
She twice found marijuana, and went to counseling sessions with him. But when Wolfe lived with his father for a year, he didnt show up at the sessions.
Steinberg reported her son to police as a runaway several times when he didnt come home in the evenings. She once took a fake ID from him, and told him overnight female guests in her home were not allowed to sleep in the same room with boys.
When Wolfe broke that rule in February 2001, she said she told to get his own apartment if he couldnt abide by it.
Wolfe told his mother that he didnt need the counseling, said Steinberg, a clinical technician at Inova Fairfax Hospital who was divorced from Wolfes father in 1988.
“I fought hard to help him but it takes more than one person to save somebody, especially a child,” she said, holding a white rosary as she testified.
Steinberg said she thought her son was able to pay for things like a weeklong trip to Jamaica from his job selling home improvements, she said.
After Petroles murder, Wolfe and his girlfriend went to Florida on short notice to stay with friends.
Prince William police said Steinberg told them Wolfe was on a preplanned trip to Florida when they spoke with her that week. Steinberg, however, testified that her son decided to go to Florida at the last minute because his friend was driving alone.
Steinberg said she advised her son to stay and attend the funeral of a neighborhood boy who had committed suicide the same day Petrole was killed.
While he was in Florida, U.S. marshals questioned Wolfe about the whereabouts of Barber, who had fled to California. Wolfe denied knowing where Barber was and spent a night in jail for having a fake ID.
Steinberg said Prince William detectives came to her house after the murder looking for her son. They said they wanted to talk to friends of Barber.
She said Thursday she assumed her son had been in contact with the police from Florida that week; police testified that Wolfe had not called them.
After Wolfe returned to Virginia and was told there was a warrant for his arrest on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and drug distribution, he told his mother not to worry.
“I had nothing to do with this murder, Mom,” Steinberg said her son told her. “Ill go down and turn myself in and it should be OK.”
The jury will be in recess until Tuesday morning because of government holidays today and Monday.
When jurors return, they will receive instructions from Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. before hearing closing arguments from attorneys and beginning deliberations.
Wolfe faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 pounds of marijuana, prosecutors said.
Jurors will have four options on the allegation of murder-for-hire.
They can convict Wolfe of capital murder, which carries a sentence of death or life in prison. Jurors could convict on a charge of first-degree murder or felony first-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Or, the jury could find Wolfe not guilty.
Murder-for-hire is the only crime in Virginia in which the defendant can receive the death penalty without being the gunman in a killing.