Beach prosecutors on Monday withdrew capital-murder charges against a man indicted for the 2010 robbery and killing of off-duty Norfolk police officer Victor Decker.
It's the second time in two months that Commonwealth's Attorney Colin Stolle has dropped charges in the case because incarcerated witnesses were untruthful.
Now no one is facing charges in the officer's murder. With the case's gag order lifted, defense lawyers said for the first time police have missed the motive for the killing. It was not, according to attorney David Bouchard, a robbery.
"Mr. Decker was assassinated," he said.
Bouchard revealed the killer was so close to Decker in the dark go-go bar parking lot that the gunman was able to press the muzzle of the pistol to the officer's head. The gunshot was a contact wound, Bouchard said, an execution.
"He let someone get that close to him," Bouchard said. "He knew that person. Someone was out to kill him, and they did it."
Stolle told NewsChannel 3 he is confident police charged the right men. He told Circuit Court Judge Stephen Mahan that more witnesses had "gone south" and that he did not believe he had the evidence needed to pursue the case further. Raymond L. Perry will be returned to a federal prison where he was already serving a 97-year sentence on robbery charges.
The decision to end Perry's prosecution "was extremely difficult," Stolle said. "It's certainly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my almost 20 years as a prosecutor."
On Friday, he revealed his decision to Dawn Decker, the officer's widow. "She understands that the investigation is going to continue," he said. "And we're not going to stop until we are able to get justice for Victor Decker."
Perry's defense lawyers say police and prosecutors, desperate to solve the officer's murder before it went cold, put too much credence in the statements of several jailhouse snitches. Several testified in earlier hearings they were either near the crime scene or heard Perry bragging about the killing. They also testified they never came forward with what they knew until after they needed help with their sentences. All told judges they were trading their testimonies for breaks.
Defense investigators revealed some of them were lying.
"This case is the poster child for why commonwealth's attorneys' offices should never, ever prosecute anybody, no matter how serious or minor, on the word of a jailhouse snitch," said Jennifer Stanton, one of Perry's lawyers. "These people would sell their own mothers for any type of time cut, any type of consideration, or simply a move from one jail cell to another."
In March, after Stolle dropped charges for Perry's co-defendant, Kareem Turner, he said as many as two witnesses had committed perjury. Today he said he'd found problems with even more witnesses as Perry's case inched to a September trial. But he said he has not charged any of the snitches with crimes for their false statements or for lying under oath.
Beach police said Decker had visited a go-go bar on Oceana Boulevard with friends on the night he died. At closing, they parted ways. A passerby found Decker's body the next morning. Bouchard has revealed in court that Decker was involved in what he called "illegal activity," and that is the more likely motive for the murder. He never said what it was.
Stolle said if he can gather more evidence, he will bring back the charges. Bouchard, the defense attorney, dismissed that.
"Mr. Perry will never be indicted in this case. Ever."
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