Girl recalls killer’s attack

For the second time in four years, Kristie Reed told a jury in a capital murder trial what Paul Warner Powell did to her Jan. 29, 1999.

Tuesday was the second day of Powell’s capital trial for the murder of Kristie’s sister Stacie. Reed, 18, was one of 11 witnesses prosecutors called before the Commonwealth rested its case Tuesday afternoon.

Reed stoically recounted coming home from school the day of her sister’s murder. Powell was waiting for her when she unlocked the door. Powell was an acquaintance of her sister’s, so Reed, then 14, asked Powell where Stacie was. When she turned to enter her own bedroom, Reed discovered her sister’s body.

Stacie Reed, 16, had been stabbed through the heart. After Stacie was stabbed, she said, he stepped on her throat, pressing his weight upon her. After killing Stacie, he got an iced tea and sat down in the living room to wait for Kristie to get home from school. Powell described the killing in an October 2001 letter to Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert.

On the stand Tuesday, Kristie Reed described Powell forcing her into the basement where he raped her, stabbed her in the stomach, slit her wrists and slashed her throat. He even took her glasses, without which Reed said she “couldn’t see two feet in front of me.” She acquiesced to his demands because she “didn’t want to die,” Reed said.

In the letter to Ebert, which became the basis for the renewed capital murder charge against Powell, Powell told the family to be ready to relive the day of the attacks again. Powell revealed in the letter that he had attempted to rape Stacie before he killed her, thus providing the evidence the Virginia Supreme Court said the case had been lacking when it overturned Powell’s original capital conviction in April 2001.

The justices ruled that the murder of Stacie and the attack on Kristie were separate acts, and did not support a murder in the commission of a felony charge. Without evidence of another crime in the commission of Stacie’s murder, Powell was convicted and sentenced to multiple life sentences for the rape and attempted murder of Kristie. He was awaiting a first-degree murder trial for Stacie’s killing when he wrote Ebert.

“Tell the family to be ready to testify and relive it all over again because if I have to suffer for the next 50 or 60 years or however long than they can suffer the torment of reliving what happened for the next couple of days,” Powell wrote Ebert in October 2001.

Lorraine Reed, the girls’ mother, testified Tuesday morning as did her ex-husband, Robert Culver. Kristie Reed testified without looking at Powell, identifying him with a prison photo. Lorraine Reed stared the defendant down as she passed the defense table on her path to the stand.

But Tuesday, it appeared Powell was also reliving the day of the murder. In the middle of the tape of the phone call Culver placed to 911, Powell bowed his head over the defense table. Moments later, the jury was escorted from the court room as sheriff’s deputies hustled the tearful defendant away. The display was a marked contrast to Powell’s demeanor throughout the opening day of the trial and the rest of Tuesday. With that exception, he appeared unmoved, slouching sullenly at the defense table between his attorneys.

Powell also broke down on a video of a police interview in January 1999 that jurors viewed Tuesday afternoon. Lt. Richard J. Leonard of the Prince William Sheriffs Office, then a master detective with the county police, questioned Powell about his relationship with Stacie Reed.

“I think you really liked her, didn’t you, Paul?” Leonard questioned Powell in the interview, as Powell covered his face.

Leonard was one of the few witnesses defense attorneys cross-examined Tuesday. Mark B. Williams asked why in subsequent interviews he had asked Powell if he had stolen anything from the house.

“Is it fair to say you were trying to elevate [the charge against Powell] to capital murder?” Williams queried.

Leonard answered that he was trying to fully understand everything that had occurred. In order to convict Powell of capital murder, prosecutors must prove he killed Stacie in the commission of another crime, such as robbery or rape.

The Commonwealth rested Tuesday evening. Today the defense will present its evidence. Closing arguments will be made before jurors are released to deliberate the first phase of the trial, the guilt phase. If the jury finds Powell guilty of capital murder, the trial will continue to the sentencing phase, and more evidence may be presented before the jury imposes a sentence.

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