The double jeopardy clause in the 5th amendment was designed to protect those who have been accused of a crime from being punished, charged, or prosecuted more than once for the same crime.
In 1999, a young man committed a crime so heinous that it shocked a quiet community to its core. After going to trial, however, the court ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the 20-year-old man deserved the capital punishment. However, that changed when the young man wrote a sickening, taunting letter to the prosecution.
A Full House
At around 4:15 in the afternoon of January 29, 1999, a man arrived at his home on McLean Street in the Prince William County of Virginia. For the past year, he had been sharing the home with his fiancé and her two daughters. So when he walked in the door, he expected to find the girls inside.
Normally, the girls, who were 16 and 14 years old, respectively, were already home from school by 4:15 in the afternoon. When the soon-to-be stepdad walked in the front door, however, the house was eerily quiet. At first, he thought that the girls had gone out.
A Grisly Discovery
However, while walking through the home, the man discovered the body of his fiancé’s 16-year-old daughter lying on the ground on the first floor of the home. Her body was bloody and the blood appeared to be coming from her chest. It appeared as if she had been attacked.
The man immediately called 911 to report what he found. First responders rushed to the scene, but sadly, Stacie Reed was already dead. While waiting for help to arrive, however, the man frantically searched the rest of the home for Stacie’s younger sister Kristie.
After descending the stairs into the basement, the man discovered Kristie’s body. Her stomach had been stabbed and she had been left to bleed out after her attacker slit her throat and wrists. Miraculously, however, Kristie was still alive.
Shortly after, the police arrived at the scene. Their first task was to get Kristie into an ambulance and off to the hospital before they started collecting evidence from the crime scene. Before moving Kristie, however, one officer knelt down close to her and asked who had attacked her and her sister.
Kristie was fighting for her life, but she managed to whisper two words: “Paul Powell.” Thankfully, doctors at the hospital were able to stop the bleeding before it was too late. Meanwhile, police had established that Stacie died after being stabbed in the heart.
Nothing Like This Before …
“Nothing has ever happened like this,” said a shocked neighbor when word about what happened started to spread throughout the community. “They seemed like good kids,” she added. “There was considerable blood, and a lot of forensic evidence was collected,” attorney Paul B. Ebert said about the crime scene.
A New Friend
According to the family, Stacie and Powell were friends. They had only been hanging out with each other for a little while, and Stacie’s mother, Lorraine Reed Whoberry, had never even met the young man. The police immediately sent police out to find Powell, and officers managed to find him within a few hours.
Tracking Down the Suspect
According to police, Powell, 20, had no listed home address. Yet they managed to track him down within a couple of hours at a friend’s house, where they found him packing a bag. When police saw that Powell’s knife cover had blood on it, they immediately took him into custody.
A Familiar Face
The officers also noticed that Powell was wearing a striped sweatshirt that matched a drawstring that they found under Stacie’s body. While in custody, detective Richard Leonard started interviewing the young man. According to Leonard, he knew Powell had been involved with other small crimes when he was in high school.
Leonard managed to get Powell to open up, and he quickly admitted to the crimes. According to Powell, he and Stacie had gotten into an argument. While they were fighting, she ended up getting “stuck” with his large survival knife. But that wasn’t the whole truth.
What Really Happened
Instead, Powell had gone over to Stacie’s house to hang out. When he discovered that she was dating an African-American guy, he became furious. And when Stacie rejected Powell’s sexual advances, he snapped.
Powell first tried to rape Stacie, however, the 16-year-old, who dreamed of becoming a Navy SEAL and was a cadet in the Junior ROTC unit at Osbourn Park High School, fought back. So Powell grabbed his knife and stabbed Stacie in the chest, puncturing her heart. Yet even after being stabbed, Stacie continued to fight.
Powell’s Second Victim
Stacie broke a fingernail on Powell’s face while trying to fight him off. But before long, she fell unconscious from the blood loss and died. Powell then smoked a cigarette and had a glass of iced tea as he waited for Stacie’s 14-year-old sister to get home. When she got home shortly after, Powell showed Kristie her older sister and ordered her to go to the basement.
Anything to Stay Alive
“I knew from the moment I saw her that she was gone,” said Kristie, who later testified in court against Powell about what happened to her that January afternoon. “Stacie put up a fight, but I’m not a fighter. If I know my life’s in jeopardy, I’ll do whatever you say. I did what he told me to do. He told me to go into the basement, and I did.”
Powell ordered Kristie to strip naked and then proceeded to rape her, strangle her, stab her in the chest, and slit her throat and wrists. When he was finished, Powell left Kristie to bleed out. But that’s not what happened. Because Kristie managed to survive, she was able to identify Powell as the murderer and rapist and testify against him in court.
Powell was eventually found guilty and convicted of capital murder. He was sentenced to death, but the verdict was thrown out after the court ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Powell tried to rape Stacie. Instead, he was given three consecutive life sentences. While in jail, Powell began sending taunting letters to both his victims and the prosecution.
Back on Death Row
Powell believed that because of double jeopardy, he was safe from being charged again with the death sentence. So in one letter to prosecutors, Powell described exactly what he did to Stacie and how he planned to rape her and kill her entire family. With that letter as proof, Powell was indicted for the rape and murder of Stacie Reed and sentenced to death. On March 18, 2010, more than 11 years after committing the heinous crimes, Powell was executed by electrocution.
“I need to know that he’s gone, that we don’t have to deal with this anymore. I was totally against the death penalty before this happened, and I didn’t know why people would want to do it. But those people haven’t been through what we’ve been through. Now I’m totally for it. He definitely deserves to die. He needs to die for what he did to Stacie,” said Kristie. “It involved kids. It was horrible,” said Detective Leonard. “It was such a senseless, terrible thing that happened to a nice family. It changed all of their lives. … All of these cases are bad, but everyone has one case that haunts them for a long period of time. This is that case.”