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John Moses Ragin Sentenced to LWOP in 2011 VA Slayings of His Wife and 3 Stepchildren - Page 5
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Thread: John Moses Ragin Sentenced to LWOP in 2011 VA Slayings of His Wife and 3 Stepchildren

  1. #41
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    Friends: Slain Newport News woman was good soldier, mother, friend

    Army Sgt. Crystal Ragin, who was stationed at Fort Eustis and was killed along with three of her children in a 2011 quadruple homicide

    e challenged herself as a mother, wife and soldier in the U.S. Army. Just before her life was brutally cut short in 2011, she had been selected to attend drill sergeant school.

    "She went into the service when she came out school," Crystal's mother, Linda Wilson Franklin, told the Daily Press in 2012. "I was crying. I was begging her not to go. But she said, 'I'm going to make a better way for all of us.'"

    Franklin, who died in late February, added: "I never understood what she meant by that. But I think I do today."
    View/Submit Comments for this story

    Growing up in modest means in Bishopville, S.C., Crystal saw the Army as a way to attain a good life for her family. Fellow soldiers at Fort Eustis called her a natural leader who was at once motherly, stern and fair. Friends say she loved her family, and would challenge herself to improve.

    "Crystal was always concerned about her kids, always making sure they were learning what they needed to learn, and being who they needed to be," said Army Staff Sgt. Willie Hillman Jr., a friend, supervisor and fellow soldier. "She was always trying to make her family a better family."

    Crystal and her children moved to Newport News in 2005, when Crystal was stationed at Fort Eustis.

    By August 2011, Crystal's daughter, Sierra, 15, had finished Dozier Middle School, and was entering Woodside High School.

    La'Kwan, 11 who enjoyed playing video games had just completed Greenwood Elementary School and was entering Dozier. Rasheed, 6, had just completed first grade at Greenwood and was entering the second.

    I'Kaos, then 5, was the only biological child between Crystal and the man she married in 2006, John Moses Ragin.

    The family lived for a time in an apartment on Lafayette Drive, and later moved to the Forrest Pines Apartments & Town Homes, off Warwick Boulevard in Denbigh.

    John Ragin took care of the kids while Crystal was deployed twice to Iraq one of those stints for 15 months. And he paid her close attention.

    She fibbed about how she and John met. Friends said Crystal told them she met John when they were both correctional officers in a South Carolina prison. In fact, Ragin was a prison inmate, serving a 15-year manslaughter sentence for killing his childhood best friend.

    But at times, Hillman said, Ragin's attentiveness crossed the line into being "jealous and controlling," particularly when it came to Crystal's male co-workers in the Army. Ragin, he said, didn't understand the Army "is like a family."

    On Aug. 19, 2011, Crystal, 32, and Sierra, La'Kwan and Rasheed were found dead in the family's town home, stabbed a total of 74 times, with the home then set on fire. I'Kaos was with his father when he was arrested in South Carolina the next day.

    On Thursday, a jury convicted Ragin, 38, of nine offenses, including three counts of capital murder. A jury will now decide whether he should get the death penalty.

    The early years

    Crystal Delaine Wilson, as she was then known, moved with her mother from Michigan to South Carolina when she was entering kindergarten.

    Shamva Wright, 34, of New York, was a lifelong friend, having grown up with Crystal in Bishopville. Their mothers also became good friends. Wright's mother, a seamstress, recruited Crystal's mother to be a seamstress, too.

    At Bishopville High School, Crystal joined the Army ROTC program, was in the drama club, and loved to read. "She loved school," Wright said. "She was a very quiet and reserved, very humbled, and she was just sweet."

    They had fun times, Wright said. "We would drive around, go to the beach, and do things that kids do," Wright said. Crystal had a boyfriend, Mike Burton, and gave birth to her first child, Sierra, when she was 17. "That was her baby," Wright said of Sierra.

    After high school graduation, Crystal married Burton and joined the Army Reserves, while Wright went to college. "But I could always call her, and she would be there," Wright said. "We would talk about girl stuff, problems with boyfriends all the time."

    Later, Crystal got a job as a corrections officer at a South Carolina prison, where she met John Ragin.

    Joining the Army

    After about seven years as an Army reservist, Crystal moved to active duty in 2004 and was sent to Fort Eustis in early 2005. Meantime, the Burtons had two more children, La'Kwan and Rasheed, before their marriage fell apart.

    John got out of prison in 2005, with Crystal going to pick him up. They got married in June 2006, with their Ragin tattooing "Crystal" and their wedding date on his arm. And at Fort Eustis, soldiers said Crystal was an exceptional leader.

    Staff Sgt. Gregory Zysk said that if Crystal had an issue with a soldier under her, she would find a way to handle the issue herself. "She had a natural ability to lead soldiers," Zysk said. "She truly cared about the soldiers and their families."

    She also seemed to have "a perfect balance" between work and family, Zysk said. "She said the love for her family made her a better leader, and the drive at work made her a better mother."

    Sgt. Robert Hendricks said he'd sometimes talk to Crystal about his personal goals, such as getting an education, and she was always encouraging. "She was stern but fair," he said. "She mothered her soldiers. That's what stands out She was good at balancing both the nurturing and leading parts of what the job requires."

    Hillman added: "She was never late to work. You didn't have to check behind her to make sure she was doing what she was supposed to be doing If I could have 10 Crystals on my team, I had a good team."

    Tours of duty

    She served two tours of duty in Iraq. The first tour, for 15 months, began in 2006, when her youngest son, I'Kaos, was only 7 months old. Her second tour was for nine months in 2009 to 2010. In Iraq, Crystal worked at a shipping container yard, keeping track of the steel boxes transferring in and out.

    For both tours, John stayed home with the kids.

    For the first tour, Crystal would "be on the phone with Mr. Ragin every day of the week" from Iraq, Hillman said. If people questioned her on why her husband wasn't working, she would respond that his staying home made sense for the family because of the high cost of day care.

    Early in the marriage, Hillman said, Crystal liked the close attention from Ragin, which was different from her prior relationship.

    "At first it was cool," he said. "Here's someone who wants to go with you everywhere, to be with you It seemed like he was a guy who wanted to be around his wife, someone who did what a husband should do for a wife."

    On one of Crystal's returns from deployment, John welcomed her "with a big poster and a vase of flowers."

    She'd call him often, saying he'd get "mad" if she didn't, Hillman said. She made some changes for him, such as swearing off meat. And if there was a problem in the marriage, she'd look inward and think of ways to do things differently, Hillman said.

    She did that with her kids, too. When Sierra was held back in the second grade, Hillman said, she blamed herself, and made some changes.


    But it soon became clear, Hillman said, that Ragin couldn't contain his jealousy about other men.

    "She could not go anywhere by herself," he said. "Not one time would you see them apart. At first, it was cool. After a while, that can be very stressful. After a while, it was like, hold on now He was a very jealous, controlling type of individual."

    Over the years, Hillman said, Ragin confronted several men about suspected relationships with Crystal. He would often answer her cell phone. Once, Hillman said, Ragin confronted Hillman at a store on the military base and knocked the sunglasses off his face. Ragin apologized when the men ran into each other about a year later.

    Hillman said he and Crystal were close friends, but only friends. They worked together closely, he said, and Crystal introduced him to reading. "She loved to read," he said. "Before I met her, I wasn't a true believer about reading. I would say, 'Why are you reading all the time?' She started me reading. We would read and we would share."

    But Ragin "didn't like our closeness," Hillman said. "He felt that me and her had a relationship going that we didn't." Ragin even went to the base commanders and lodged a complaint about him, and they ended up making a shift in supervisors to keep the peace.

    The second deployment to Iraq, Hillman said, became for Crystal a break from that jealousy.

    Meantime, the Ragins' relationship was rocky in other ways, court records show. Ragin and Crystal both lodged various assault complaints about each other to police or at the magistrate's office. They also had both taken out protective orders on each other, including one Crystal was granted the day before she was found dead.

    Ragin was nothing if not persistent, Hillman said. "If anything was wrong with Crystal," he said, Ragin wasn't afraid to go to Army higher-ups.

    When the Army got her a flight out the day after she completed an out-of-state training course, Ragin saw to it that the Army changed her flight so she could fly out the same day.

    On a rare four-day break in a deployment, a group of soldiers were given a pass to relax in Qatar. But Crystal didn't want to go, Hillman said. So Ragin "called generals, he called sergeant majors, and guess what? She didn't have to go," Hillman said.

    Weeks before the family was slain, Wright, Crystal's childhood friend, spoke with her about coming to Newport News for a visit. During the discussion, Crystal didn't mention anything unusual about her husband, she said.

    Hillman said he found John Ragin's reaction when told his family was found dead calling police from South Carolina rather than racing back to Newport News was out of character, Hillman said. The normal Ragin, he said, "would have been back on 95 North, burning that road up."

    Ragin didn't return to Virginia until police arrested him the next day and had him extradited back to Newport News. The family's youngest son, I'Kaos, is living with his maternal relatives in South Carolina.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  2. #42
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Newport News jury hear evidence supporting life in prison and death in capital case

    One by one the caskets of Crystal Ragin and her three children were brought into a South Carolina church in 2011. A photograph was placed atop each one.

    "You usually go to a funeral and see one casket there, maybe two. I had never been to a funeral and seen four caskets. The smallest one wasn't even as long as this," Ragin's sister, Shelby Hancock said, placing her hand across the length of the witness stand Monday.

    Hancock testified during the penalty phase of the capital murder trial of John Moses Ragin. Ragin, 38, was convicted last week of killing his wife, Crystal Ragin, a 32-year-old Army sergeant at Fort Eustis, and three of her children — Sierra, 15; La'Kwan, 11; and Rasheed, 6.

    After six hours of deliberation last week, a jury found Ragin guilty of three counts of capital murder, one count of second-degree murder, four counts of unlawful stabbing in the commission of a felony and arson. The capital murder charges — each punishable by execution — pertain to the deaths of the children.

    The same jury that convicted Ragin must now decide whether to sentence him to life in prison or death. Witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense testified Monday, with closing arguments to begin Tuesday morning.

    The family was found dead Aug. 19, 2011, inside their Old Courthouse Way townhome in the Denbigh section of the city. Prosecutors believe they were killed the evening of Aug.18. Each victim was stabbed multiple times, with Sierra set on fire.

    "I remember driving to the cemetery and seeing one hearse turn and then another and another and another," Hancock testified. "Just gone. Four people — gone. Good people, good kids. They had bright futures ahead of them."

    Manslaughter conviction

    Evidence was presented by prosecutors related to a prior conviction of voluntary manslaughter against Ragin in the shooting death of his childhood best friend, 17-year-old Kelvin Lamont Billups. Billups was shot in the chest and head on Thanksgiving Day in 1990.

    Ragin was 15 at the time of the shooting. He pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge in May 1991. He was released from a South Carolina prison in 2005.

    The 12 jurors gave no noticeable reactions after hearing about Ragin's prior conviction, with most continuing to write in their notepads.

    Major Douglas Ridgeway, of the police department in Manning, S.C., testified that Ragin told police Billups had thrown a bottle at him.

    "He said they had a fight and it was broken up and after that he was being threatened," Ridgeway testified.

    While in prison, Ragin served as clerk for Chaplain George Windley.

    "John was mild-mannered and dependable," Windley testified. "He was always on time."

    Most of Ragin's duties consisted of typing various documents, including inmates' whereabouts within the jail at certain times of the day. He worked as a clerk for a little over a year.

    Windley, who has been a chaplain for the South Carolina Department of Corrections for 25 years, described Ragin as "one of the best clerks" he ever had.

    Crystal and her children

    Sgt. Sheree Snow and Crystal were deployed together twice. They became close friends as they were preparing for their 11-month deployment to Iraq in September 2009.

    "She could have taken her career anywhere," Snow testified. "She was a fair leader, an outstanding soldier … a person with integrity who was respected and well-liked as a soldier … I lost a really good friend."

    The Ragin children were described as smart and kind by family and former teachers. Christy Anderson was Rasheed's first-grade teacher at Greenwood Elementary School.

    "He was such a tiny little thing," Anderson testified. "He had a smile that took up his whole face …he was my best student. He was a hard worker."

    Anderson recalled La'Kwan as someone who looked out for his little brother, making sure he got to class safely and had everything he needed for class.

    Sierra's seventh-grade teacher, Janice Foster-Carrington, said her death has left a "hole in her heart."

    "Her smile could light up a room," she said. "When she smiled, you felt like everything was going to be OK ... that child was so special."

    Ragin and Crystal's only biological son together, 5-year-old son I'Kaos, is being cared for by Hancock, who is seeking full custody of him. Prosecutors theorized that the boy was outside in Ragin's car at the time of the killings.

    Hancock, who described I'Kaos as a very smart boy, said he is a Cub Scout and recently earned two badges. Hancock has two young sons and said I'Kaos tries to teach them to play hide and seek, the same game he and Rasheed would often play.

    The boy, who is in counseling, was initially placed with Ragin's parents, but they violated the terms of the custody agreement by letting the boy speak to Ragin over the phone from jail, according to court testimony.

    Still our son

    John Ragin's parents, Ernest and Ida Mae Ragin, testified that their son had a loving upbringing. Their support for their son was unwavering from the witness stand. Ragin is the only couple's son together, but he grew up surrounded by three half-siblings and several cousins.

    When his son was around 8 years old, Ernest Ragin said he became addicted to drugs, which took him away from the family.

    "I couldn't hold a job," he testified. "I was absent from the family for days."

    He said his son was very good at playing basketball and soccer, but there were times he would be late picking John Ragin up because he was distracted by his addiction.

    When his son was charged with manslaughter he said he "didn't involve" himself in the matter.

    "My substance abuse had become my priority," he said.

    Things turned around when his son began serving his manslaughter sentence. The Ragins would visit their son every weekend. He said he remembers his son being extremely happy about meeting Crystal. He told his son that he must love her and her children.

    "Dad, I understand that. I'm going to love them all," Ernest Ragin recalled his son telling him.

    Ernest Ragin described his son as "hands on" with the kids, seeing to it that they had completed their school work.

    During cross examination, Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Valerie Muth reminded Ernest Ragin of his testimony during his son's parole hearing in 2005. Muth asked if he remembered telling the parole board that John had been rehabilitated during his prison term and could be a productive member of society.

    "Yes, and those are my words now," he said.

    Angela White grew up under the same roof as John Ragin. The two are cousins, but are more like brother and sister. White described him as "very family oriented" and recalled several occasions John and Crystal would visit with their children.

    "I don't know John no other way than being a good father, good husband and good brother. He's a good person all together," White said.

    Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases Monday. The will make closing arguments when the sentencing phase resumes at 10 a.m. Tuesday before Newport News Circuit Judge Timothy Fisher.

    The jury will then deliberate John Ragin's fate.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  3. #43
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Ragin testifies at sentencing hearing

    By Rachel West

    NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A man convicted of brutally slaying his wife and three of her children took the stand for the first time Tuesday.

    At his sentencing hearing, John Ragin decided to testify. He spoke for 45 minutes and stated he needed to speak for himself.

    “I did not kill my family and I am innocent,” Ragin said on the stand. He told jurors he knows they saw the evidence, but when he left his home on Aug. 18, “my family was alive.”

    Additionally, he claimed there were pieces of evidence the jurors were not allowed to see.

    “I know what happened that night. I lost my family and the reason why I lost my family is I left home,” he said. He told jurors he knew what really happened, but never expounded on his claim.

    On cross examination, the prosecution made him read two letters he wrote to another woman professing his love. He said he and the woman were just friends.

    Ragin was convicted of three counts capital murder and one count second-degree murder last week as well as other charges. He faces the death penalty.

    Closing arguments haven not yet begun in the case.


  4. #44
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    No remorse, just denial, that should go over really well with the jury.
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  5. #45
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Unbelievable! This was a slam dunk death penalty case!

    Ragin gets life after jury puts decision in judges hands

    A 39-year-old Alcolu man will spend the rest of his natural life in a Virginia prison, with no possibility of parole.

    John Moses Ragin was sentenced Wednesday afternoon by a Virginia judge after a jury deciding between the death penalty and a life sentence could not reach a decision after about eight hours of deliberation that began late Tuesday afternoon, according to Peter Dujardin of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va. The same jury convicted Ragin on Thursday to three counts of capital murder and one count of second-degree murder for the 2011 stabbing deaths of his wife Crystal Ragin, and his stepchildren, Sierra, 15; LaKwan, 11; and Rasheed, 6.

    Prosecutors argued before the jury during the guilt and penalty phases that Ragin deserved death for stabbing the four victims more than 70 times altogether and then setting fire to the familys home before fleeing to his parents home in Alcolu.

    They told jurors that only Ragins blood would satisfy the crime, according to the Daily Press.

    They also told jurors about Ragins previous conviction of voluntary manslaughter. He served 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in the early 1990s to shooting and killing his best friend, Kevin Billups, on Thanksgiving. He was released about 2005 at the age of 30.

    Ragins attorneys presented the case for life on Tuesday morning, and Ragin surprised the courtroom by taking the stand in his defense against his attorneys advice.

    According to ABC-13 News of Hampton Roads, Va., Ragin showed no remorse on the stand and claimed he didnt kill his family. He also told the judge he wanted to represent himself during the death penalty hearing.

    Character witnesses told jurors that Ragin was quiet and calm, family-oriented and a good father, husband, brother and person. The Ragin family said they were close knit, and didnt realize that John and Crystal were having marital problems or on the verge of a divorce until after the murders.

    Crystal had, in fact, received a restraining order for Ragin, and received a deferred sentence by a Virginia judge in that matter just three days before the slayings. Prosecutors told jurors during the guilt-phase of the trial that Ragin stabbed the four victims and then set fire to the family home in Virginia before fleeing to his former home in South Carolina.

    According to police reports, LaKwan and Rasheed died of head and neck wounds, while Sierra was stabbed in the head and torso. She was so badly burned that she could not be identified at first.

    Crystal Ragin, a member of Army at Fort Eustis, Va., had just returned home from Iraq. Friends and family who testified Monday during the penalty phase for the prosecution said she was an outstanding soldier, and a fair leader who had been deployed overseas several times.

    John Moses Ragins father, Ernest, told The Manning Times in 2011 that his son didnt act any differently than normal when he showed up on a hot August afternoon in 2011 to drop his and Crystals one son off.

    Came here just like he always do, didnt act no way out of the ordinary, Ernest said. Its just a sad situation. I cant begin to picture in my mind my son doing anything like that.

    Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett called Ragin a butcher during both bond and extradition hearings later in August and September 2011. Ragin was ultimately returned to Virginia in October 2011.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  6. #46
    Senior Member CnCP Legend FFM's Avatar
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    Jan 2013
    I agree with your complaint; this should have been a death sentence Heidi. All Death penalty states should allow what Florida and Alabama can - allow for a death sentence without an absolute majority.

  7. #47
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    They only deliberated for 8 hours. The judge should have sent them back.
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  8. #48
    Moderator Dave from Florida's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
    Quote Originally Posted by FFM View Post
    I agree with your complaint; this should have been aissdeath sentence Heidi. All Death penalty states should allow what Florida and Alabama can - allow for mhm tencea death sentence without an absolute majority.
    For sure. I don't know what the vote was but this happens when there is one or a small minority of jurors who most likely told the court during jury selection that they could impose the death sentence if the evidence warranted it.

    The antis would cite this case as a reason the death penalty is applied arbitrarily.
    Last edited by Dave from Florida; 04-02-2014 at 06:14 PM.

  9. #49
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JLR's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    Didn't see that one coming! That's the second Virginia case lately to end in LWOP and while Padgett had a strong mitigation case, this one looked like a walk in the park for the prosecution. They would both probably be dead now if this had happened a decade ago.

  10. #50
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    I agree with DaveP. Cases like this one bespeak an abolitionist juror(s) who simply lied during voir dire.

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