March 18th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Killer who sent taunting letter to be executed

The murderer of a 16-year-old girl faces electrocution Thursday after a letter bragging about his crimes got him a cell on Virginia's death row.

Attorneys for Paul Warner Powell plan no further appeals, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has denied clemency. The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to block the execution. The execution is set for 9 p.m. ET Thursday.

Powell was convicted in the 1999 murder of Stacie Reed and the rape of her 14-year-old sister in their Manassas, Virginia, family home.

Powell claimed double jeopardy after state prosecutors put him on trial for a second time in the killing. The high court in July delayed Powell's execution while considering the broader constitutional claims, which were finally rejected. The killer rejected lethal injection, the state's usual method of execution.

"I'm hopeful this is the last legal chapter in the long history of this case," said Powell's prosecutor, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert. "The survivors - Stacie's mother and [her sister] - have really been traumatized by delay after delay. Hopefully they're going to get some peace and closure after all these years."

CNN does not identify sexual assault victims without their permission, even though the surviving victim, now 25, has talked publicly about the case.

The crime shocked the Washington area. Stacie Reed knew Powell, then 20 and an admitted racist. The state's highest court eventually threw out the 2000 verdict in the first trial, saying prosecutors had not proven other necessary death-eligible offenses were committed against the 16-year-old. Such "aggravating" factors could include, rape, attempted rape or robbery in

commission of the murder.

The sexual assault and attempted murder of Stacie's younger sister was upheld, and Powell was given a long prison sentence.

Powell, believing he was free from execution, proceeded to write a taunting, profanity-filled letter from behind bars to Ebert, laying out explicit details of the crime unknown to investigators at the time.

"Since I have already been indicted on first degree murder and the Va. Supreme Court said that I can't be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999, to show you how stupid all of y'all ... are," wrote Powell, who is white.

He said he had gone to the Reed house to confront Stacie for dating a black boyfriend. He admitted pinning the victim, threatening to rape her, then stabbing her in the heart when the girl resisted. He then stomped on her throat.

"I guess I forgot to mention these events when I was being questioned. Ha Ha!" he wrote in 2001. "Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid ... and saving me?"

The killer also said that after that crime, he waited in the house until the younger girl returned from school, then attacked her, leaving her for dead. In the meantime, he drank iced tea from the family refrigerator and smoked a cigarette, part of the forensic evidence that investigators used to place Powell at the scene of the crime.

With this first-hand account from Powell, he was indicated again and charged with murder and attempted rape of Stacie - a capital-eligible crime. He again was convicted, and federal and state courts subsequently upheld the conviction on appeal.

The Supreme Court appeal is Powell v. Kelly (09-21).

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Happy

    So finally.. there is some justice somewhere.. shouldn't he be treated the same way he treated those girls?

    March 18, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • lorne

      Hands down winner of the 2010 Darwin Awards and there is still 5 months to go.

      July 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DFoster

    It's sad the they can only execute this guy once. I'd fry him again and again if I could.

    July 14, 2010 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jack Mirus

    People like this make me absolutely sick. . . 110% disgusted. The grim world we live in today. . .

    Though after reading this I couldn't help but laugh my ass off at the complete stupidity of Powell. Way to ruin your life-expectancy there buddy. (I agree with Lorne Darwin Winner for sure. xDDD)

    I think instead of being electrocuted he should be given a jail sentence for life with a daily dosage of "shock therapy" -_- that's unrealistic though.

    I hope he likes his afterlife toasty.

    July 14, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Jack – grim yes, but crimes like this have been happening since the beginning of time. Did you forget or are you not much for studying history?

      July 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nick

    This guy needs to go , and now. you don't write letters bragging about your crimes.

    July 14, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SOF

    Hanging or Firing Squad since he turned down the shot that sends you flying??? or is he going to ride the lightning on Ol' Sparky??? Where do I get tickets???

    July 14, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. stinkysullivan

    This guy sounds is white trash!

    July 20, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ms. Dee Dee

    More criminals should get the death penalty. Maybe they'll think twice before hurting others., and then thinking that they're going to live to brag about it.

    July 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. shelley

    The sooner the better – such evil

    July 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |