Sept. 2 is the day on which Paul Warner Powell must dwell from his cell at Sussex I State Prison. It is the scheduled day for his execution.
Powell was sentenced to death in Prince William Circuit Court on Thursday, the second time he has faced the death penalty.
“In my opinion, the position he’s in now, he’s got nothing but time to think. Now he’s got to deal with what’s coming up, the death penalty,” said Lorraine Reed, the mother of the two teenage girls Powell attacked in their Yorkshire home in January 1999. “He’s exactly where I want him to be.”
Powell’s original conviction and death sentence were overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2001. The Supreme Court ruled that Prince William prosecutors erred when charging Powell with capital murder. Justices decided the case did not meet Virginia’s death penalty statute because there was insufficient evidence Powell committed an additional felony such as rape or robbery when he killed Stacie Reed, 16.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to Prince William Circuit Court for a first-degree murder trial.
But before the new trial, Powell wrote a letter to Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert, detailing the murder and taunting Ebert for saving his life.
“Since the Supreme Court said I can’t be charged with capital murder again, I can tell you what I just told you because I no longer have to worry about the death penalty,” Powell wrote in October 2001.
In the letter to Ebert, Powell described going to the Reeds’ Yorkshire house, where he found 16-year-old Stacie Reed home alone. The Osbourn Park High freshman was released from school early after finishing exams. Powell, an acquaintance of Stacie’s, was allowed in to visit while Stacie did her laundry.
Powell demanded Stacie have sex with him, and they struggled. During the altercation, the phone rang and when Stacie insisted on answering it, Powell stabbed her and stomped on her throat.
Then he lounged in the living room, sipping “a cup of iced tea as if he was at a Sunday picnic,” Ebert said Thursday.
When Stacie’s 14-year-old sister Kristie got home from Parkside Middle School, he lured her into the basement, raped her and slashed her throat. She survived, and testified at both of his trials.
“I was hoping to see something in [Powell’s] eyes, hoping to see some kind of remorse. He did not look at me,” Lorraine Reed said after testifying Thursday. “I know [Stacie] is with us; she’s been with us the whole time.”
Murder during the commission of an attempted rape is one of 13 offenses in Virginia punishable by death. Using the letter as evidence, prosecutors charged Powell with capital murder again. He was convicted of capital murder, again, in January 2003. The jury recommended death.
“Twenty-five people, yourself included, thought the death penalty was appropriate,” Ebert said Thursday as he argued for the death penalty. He was referring to the two juries and Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr., who had all previously condemned Powell to death.
Powell’s attorneys, Mark B. Williams and Carroll A. Weimer Jr., argued for a life sentence, suggesting life without hope was a harsher penalty.
“A life sentence is a death sentence. Either way, he’s going to die in prison,” Williams said. “He’s got to stay in there for 40 to 50 years with virtually nothing to do but think about what he’s done to this young woman and her family.”
“[Stacie] was a freshman discovering her hopes and dreams. [She dreamed] of being a Navy SEAL, to stand beside other young men and women to fight for freedom, which you will never know again,” Lorraine Reed said as she read a victim impact statement she and Kristie wrote.
Stacie was a Navy Junior ROTC cadet at Osbourn Park. Kristie, now 18, will graduate from high school in a month. She plans to go to business school, she said after the hearing.
The Reeds reacted to Powell’s sentence with hugs from prosecutors, friends, church members and supporters.
Powell’s attorneys have 30 days to file an appeal.
“It’s a unique issue. The Supreme Court is going to have to interpret what they meant when they said they couldn’t try him [again] for capital murder,” Williams said following the sentencing.
Williams asked to dismiss the capital murder charge on double jeopardy grounds Thursday, but was denied.
Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.