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20060103: RICE Darrell David VA Manassas Serial Killer News
Rice put on trial for Manassas abduction
 

The man prosecutors once pegged as the “Route 29 stalker” who terrorized much of central Virginia in early 1996 was on trial this summer in Manassas.

One night in February 1996, 38-year-old Carmelita Shomo was driving on Dumfries Road in Manassas, heading home from work.

A truck drove up behind her, flashing its lights. When Shomo pulled over, a man approached her and said there were sparks coming from under her car.

He offered her a ride, and she accepted.

Shomo got in his truck and the man drove off. Later, he pulled over to the side of the road and attacked her.

After a scuffle, Shomo was able to get free, though she caught her ankle in the truck’s seat belt and was dragged down the road before getting free.

The method of the abduction was eerily similar to the so-called “Route 29 stalker” who around the same time attempted to abduct up to 30 women along the Route 29 corridor from Charlottsville to Northern Virginia.

Authorities believe those abductions climaxed with the 1996 murder of 25-year-old Alicia Showalter Reynolds.

Darrell David Rice was arrested in 1997 for an attempted abduction in Shenandoah National Park, and was in jail when Shomo picked a photograph of him out of a police lineup and said he was the man who attacked her.

In 2004, Rice was indicted in Prince William County for allegedly attempting to abduct Shomo.

The Prince William County indictment came just after federal prosecutors dropped murder charges against Rice for two other 1996 murders in Shenandoah National Park. That case fell apart after DNA evidence seemed to exclude Rice.

When Rice was indicted in Prince William County, Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he believed Rice was the man responsible for the “Route 29 stalker” abductions.

But Rice’s defense attorneys pointed the finger at another man: suspected serial killer Richard Evonitz, who lived in Fredericksburg at the time of the “Route 29 stalker” abductions, and was later implicated in the killing of three young girls.

After numerous pre-trial hearings that covered every subject from hypnosis-induced testimony to what kind of truck Rice was driving at the time of the incident, the Rice trial started in August.

It was widely expected that prosecutors would try to peg him as the “Route 29 Stalker,” and Rice faced up to life in prison if convicted.

But from the opening bell of the jury trial, prosecutors narrowed the focus to the Carmelita Shomo incident and stayed away from the term “Route 29 Stalker.”

The main evidence offered against Rice was the testimony of Shomo, who pointed at him from the witness stand and said she was “100 percent sure” he was the man who attacked her.

But defense attorneys poked holes in Shomo’s testimony, pointing out that she may have previously implicated other men as being her attacker.

Though one juror said after the trial that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Rice, the case never got that far.

Prosecutors cut a deal with Rice. He entered a guilty plea to one count of unlawful wounding, and in return was sentenced to time served.

Afterward, prosecutors said they made the deal to “get something” out of the case, and characterized Rice as a dangerous man.

Rice’s defense attorneys, who worked the case for free, saw it as long overdue justification for a man who had been wrongfully accused twice by prosecutors looking to get a conviction for unsolved cases.

Rice is scheduled to be released from jail to a halfway house midway through 2006, and completely released in 2007.


20050118: RICE Darrell David VA Manassas Serial Killer News
Defense lawyer: Serial killer may have been "29 stalker
 

See also EVONITZ Richard Marc

A defense lawyer for the man accused of being the 'Route 29 stalker' in the mid 1990s said Tuesday that the real culprit may have been a serial killer who murdered three Spotsylvania County girls in 1996 and 1997.

James Connell, lawyer for Darrell David Rice, said there is evidence to support the theory that Richard Marc Evonitz--who committed suicide in 2002 and was determined responsible for the murders of Sofia Silva and Kristin and Kati Lisk--was actually the Route 29 stalker.

Rice is scheduled to go on trial in April for a February 1996 attack in Prince William County on Carmelita Shomo, one of several dozen attempted abductions that year along the Route 29 corridor. The 29 stalker also is believed responsible for the murder of Alicia Showalter Reynolds in Culpeper.

One reason Connell believes Evonitz may have been the 29 stalker rather than Rice is that Shomo once identified Evonitz as her attacker. She also once identified Rice.

At a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Prince William Circuit Court, defense lawyers unsuccessfully sought access to DNA evidence from the Reynolds case and other physical evidence from the 29 stalker cases that they believe would help exonerate their client.

Circuit Judge William Hamblen said prosecutors already have promised not to introduce any evidence from the Reynolds case at Rice's trial, so it would essentially be meaningless to exonerate Rice in the Reynolds case when he is charged with attacking Shomo.

"It seems to me you're setting up a straw man and knocking him down," Hamblen said.

Prosecutors said they would not introduce evidence from the Reynolds killing and numerous other 29 stalker cases, but said they may introduce evidence at trial concerning 14 other cases associated with the stalker.

Defense lawyers said they needed evidence from all the cases because if they can prove Rice was innocent in one of those cases, it would cast doubt on the fact that was involved in any of the cases.

"The (prosecutors) have said he killed Alicia Reynolds and he's the Route 29 stalker," said defense lawyer Deirdre Enright, referring to public statements made by Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert.

Rice's "best defense against these allegations" is disproving links to the stalker cases, Enright said.

Although prosecutors will not be required to provide the evidence sought, Enright said after the hearing that the defense may still be able to get the information on its own.

Rice is serving an 11-year prison sentence for a 1997 attack on a female bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park. He also was charged in federal court in 2002 with the hate-crime killings of two park hikers, Julianne Williams of St. Cloud, Minn., and Laura "Lollie" Winans of Unity, Maine.

Those charges were dropped last year, though, after DNA evidence in the case cast doubt on Rice's guilt. Rice's lawyers in that case also had suggested that Evonitz was the killer.

Also on Tuesday, Hamblen rejected a defense request for a change of venue out of Prince William County, and granted a defense request to delay the start of the trial from February until April.



Copyright 1995-2006 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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