Murder victim’s family furious over how protective order was handled

Posted at 11:51 PM, May 16, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-16 23:51:53-04

Hours before authorities found Crystal Ragin and three of her children stabbed to death inside their Newport News apartment on August 19, 2011, her sister Shelby Hancock said Crystal begged a Newport News Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge to protect her from her husband, John Ragin.

More than 24 hours would pass before a Newport News Sheriff's Department deputy would attempt to serve the judge's protective order on John Ragin.

However, when the deputy arrived at Ragin's home, police were already there working a crime scene. 

Authorities say John Ragin murdered his wife and his three step children on August 19, 2011, then took off to South Carolina with the son they had in common.

"She cried out for help," said Hancock from her home in Memphis.  "If someone is telling you they're scared to leave, that they don't know what will happen to them, I think that a lightbulb should go off in your head that 'okay maybe we need to do something about this, we need to get on this right away.'"

During the week of the August 2011 murders, Crystal faced John in court for a June assault charge against her husband.  She said he "picked her up and threw her to the ground, causing her to hit her head on a dresser."  A judge found there was enough evidence to convict John, but deferred the sentencing for two years.  Soon after the hearing, Crystal filed a protective order that said she "feared for her life".

"My sister told them when she was in the courtroom she was afraid to leave out of the courtroom because she didn't know what would happen to her," Hancock said.

Hours after the judge signed that protective order on August 18, 2011, Newport News JDR court clerks sent it over to the Newport News Sheriff's Department so they could serve John the order. Sheriff's department officials said they did not receive the protective order until after 3 p.m.  It was their practice to serve protective orders they received later in the day, on the next day.

"While that protective order sat inside the Sheriff's Department, court documents reveal Crystal and John had a run-in near her home that same afternoon.  Documents said "Crystal called Newport News Police" and said John "would not let her leave".  The affidavit said Crystal told officers about the protective order, but police "could not find the outstanding protective order to serve on John Ragin".

"Police then let him go from the scene," said Hancock.  "They didn't go back out to the house that night to try to serve him the protection order even though he was making threats to her right then, threatening her life."

The next day, August 19, 2011, police found four stabbed and burned bodies.  Crystal's sister does not only blame Ragin for her family's heartache, she also points the finger at what she calls a broken system.

"We deserve justice," said Hancock.  "My sister and her children deserve justice.  Someone needs to answer to why they didn't serve that protection order, or why it took them so many hours to serve it."

According to state law, protective orders should "be served forthwith on the allegedly abusing person".

Officials with the Newport News Sheriff's Department said no one was available to comment on how the Ragin protective order was handled.  They have said they've come up with a system to serve protective orders faster.

"It shouldn't have [taken] my sister and three of her children to be brutally murdered to decide 'we're gonna change things, we're gonna make sure protective orders are served more quickly'," Hancock said.

Hancock said their family is tryng to raise money for a lawyer.  They want to take legal action against the clerk's office and Sheriff's Department for how the protective order was handled.

Just last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill requiring court clerks to enter protective orders into a statewide system by the end of a business day.