Martial arts instructor enters plea in stabbing of wife

Frank Lewis Roper, 38, entered an Alford plea Monday morning in the stabbing of his estranged wife, Renita Hills, 39, in Prince William Circuit Court.

Roper, of 14626 Bakersfield Street, Woodbridge, was originally charged with attempted murder and aggravated malicious wounding. Monday, the aggravated charge was reduced to malicious wounding. Roper attacked his wife in her Dale City home in June 2002.

An Alford plea is treated in court like a guilty plea. Though the defendant does not actually admit guilt, or liability for the offense, he believes he would be found guilty if the case went to trial. Circuit Court Judge Richard B. Potter found Roper guilty of attempted murder and malicious wounding.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kristina Morgan-Robinson said Roper attacked his wife in her Dale City home while she was dressing their daughter for her weekly visit with him.

“She was putting socks on their child; she doesn’t remember anything after he grabbed her,” Morgan-Robinson said.

Morgan-Robinson said the estranged couple’s then 5-year-old daughter said she “saw half a knife, and a handle. [Roper] was stabbing [Hills] and then he was standing on top of her.”

The stabbing occurred when Roper and Hills were estranged, after attempts at reconciliation failed. Roper was studying to become a deacon at his church. He was previously a martial arts instructor at Chinn Aquatics & Fitness Center in Woodbridge.

Hills’ older children were asleep upstairs when the attack occurred. The two teenagers heard their 5-year-old sister screaming, and Hills’ son ran downstairs.

“He saw Frank Roper come down the hallway, [dressed] all in black. [Roper] said, ‘I’m sorry,'” Morgan-Robinson said.

Hills’ son ran back upstairs with the youngest daughter, and his teenage sister called police. All three children eventually went back downstairs to see what was happening.

Both Roper and his wife were transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where each spent several days recovering from wounds. Roper stabbed his wife 10 times, requiring more than 150 stitches, according to court documents. He also stabbed himself in the leg, severing an artery, Morgan-Robinson said.

Roper will be sentenced June 5. He faces a combined maximum of 30 years in jail for the two charges.

Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.

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