A Virginia man accused of fatally stabbing and then burning the body of a woman who was staying at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment was found guilty Thursday of murder and arson.
Richard Montano, 48, killed 40-year-old Silvia “Kelly” Vaca Abacay in August 2022, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement to HuffPost. Abacay had been staying at the apartment of Montano’s ex-girlfriend Fatima Via Rojas in Falls Church, Virginia.
According to the Washington PostMontano and Via Rojas were in an abusive relationship for eight years before she broke up with him just days before the murder. During Montano’s trial, Via Rojas testified that he had physically assaulted her in the past.
“Every time I broke up with him, he looked for me,” Via Rojas told the jury, according to the post. “He always found me, bought me flowers and invited me to dinner. He always convinced me to come back to him.”
Via Rojas said Montano continued to show up at her apartment after their breakup in 2022 despite blocking his number, and said police advised her to send him another message to leave her alone, reported the post.
Camera footage from “Neighbors’ Ring” shown at trial revealed According to the public prosecutor’s office, Montano had broken into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment several times in the past few months without her knowledge.
According to the Post, Montano’s defense attorney, meanwhile, argued that prosecutors had not proven that the man in the video was Montano or that he killed Vaca Abacay.
Prosecutors said Montano entered the apartment that day to kill his ex-girlfriend, but found Vaca Abacay and mistakenly killed her instead. In closing arguments, prosecutors said Montano killed the wrong woman and then tried to cover up the crime with a fire. NBC Washington reported.
“The body was so burned that the coroner couldn’t even… count exactly how many wounds Sylvia had. That is the level of violence we saw in this case,” said District Attorney Steve Descano. WUSA9 reported.
According to the outlet, neighbors called 911 shortly after hearing screams and bangs coming from the apartment. Prosecutors said investigators found Vaca Abacay’s burned body wrapped in clothing to hasten the fire, according to the Post.
“He used her own clothing to burn her,” a prosecutor said.
In one GoFundMe fundraiser Vaca Abacay was organized by close friends after her death and was described as a “devoted mother and loving wife.”
“Kelly was kind and joyful and always there to help others. She was loved by so many and we will miss her dearly,” the fundraising page reads. “Her family and friends are heartbroken by her loss.”
Montano will be sentenced on January 19, 2024 and faces life in prison.
Do you need help? In the US, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). National Domestic Violence Hotline.