Justice served in decades old murder case

Lawton_It's been nearly 20 years since Veronica Jefferson was raped and murdered in Alexandria, Virginia.  But, now a Lawton family finally sees justice in the violent death of their daughter.  The man convicted of killing Veronica was found guilty, but her murder perplexed police, and her story was even the focus of an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries."

However, last year, DNA evidence linked her murder to a man serving time for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in California in 1990.  An Arlington County grand jury sentenced 40-year-old Alfredo R. Prieto on Sunday after he was found guilty on of charges of capitol murder, rape, and several other counts.

It's been a long and winding road for the family to arrive at the sentencing.  The first proceeding was declared a mistrial after one juror made the decision to reverse his vote at the last minute.  So, the prosecution had to present its case again in January.  This time the jury found Prieto guilty.

Now, there has finally been closure for Virginia's family.  "After almost 20 years, wondering who, and you know, not get closure, to get justice is just really wonderful," says Velda Jefferson.  She had just come home from Virginia when she received the call.  "I was just ecstatic, I mean...uh...I was just ecstatic, Velda said.  "

It had been a long time coming.  Two trial delays, and one complete mistrial before Prieto was found guilty.  Velda says it was her faith that kept her strong.  "I always knew, even when we didn't know who the person was, that justice would be gotten one way or the other," she said.  She made the trip all the way to the trial in Fairfax County, Virginia, and testified against her daughter's killer.  "He's just a cold-hearted killer...that's all he was - a serial killer," she says.  "I faced him.  I often wondered what I would do when I saw him, but it was alright and I was able to face him."

It took authorities 17 years to track Prieto down.  The big break in the case was DNA evidence, which led them to the suspect, who was already on death row in California for the 1991 rape and murder conviction of a 15-year-old girl.  He was then linked to - and charged - in two more murder cases.

Velda is glad, because she says the wait isn't too long.  "In Virginia, if you get the death penalty, the max will be five years, so they're going to keep him there," she says.  Velda says it's exactly what Prieto deserves.  "The only part that saddens me is that my husband is not able to be there," she says.  Her husband passed away last April, but Velda says he's at peace knowing it's all over now.

According to Virginia state law, death row inmates have the option of choosing to die by lethal injection or electrocution.