John Ragin to represent himself during sentencing phase of murder trial

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by Arrianee LeBeau, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 13 at 12:48 PM

UPDATE 6/13/14: A judge said he would allow John Ragin to represent himself during the sentencing phase of his trial and dismissed Ragin's attorney's, following the request of the defendant Friday.  His sentencing was continued. 

Ragin said in court he will appeal his previous convictions. 

He is scheduled to be back in court on June 26.
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UPDATE 4/1/14:  John Ragin will spend the rest of his life in prison for the brutal murder of his wife and three step-children in 2011.

A Newport News judge sentenced Ragin Wednesday to three life sentences for three capital murder convictions.

The judge imposed the life sentences because the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.

Ragin was also sentenced to five years for four unlawful stabbing convictions, 40 years for the second degree murder of Crystal Ragin and life in prison for arson.

Distraught family members screamed and cried after the sentence was handed down.
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NEWPORT NEWS --For the first time Tuesday, the jury heard from a man convicted of killing his wife and her three children in 2011.

At his sentencing hearing, 38-year-old John Ragin said he wanted to speak for himself and took the stand against the advice of his attorneys.   He said he wanted to represent himself because of "ineffective counsel."

Ragin showed no remorse, would smirk at times and evaded the prosecutor's questions.  He claimed he didn't kill his family. 

Last week, Ragin was found guilty of killing his wife Crystal and the step-children, ages 15, 11 and 6, then setting fire to their apartment in Newport News.

Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn asked the jury to sentence Ragin to death.

"You saw a person capable of killing four people without remorse, hesitation, or reservation," Gwynn said.

On Monday,  the prosecution brought in a woman who served with Crystal Ragin in the Army.  She said they became very close when preparing for their second deployment in 2006. She described Crystal as “an outstanding soldier, and fair leader.”  She also showed the jury a tattoo that she and fellow soldiers got in Crystal’s memory.   

Also taking the stand for the Commonwealth's Attorney were teachers who had two of the children in class. Janice Foster-Carrington Sierra’s 7th grade teacher said “there’s been a hole in my heart” since finding out about Sierra’s death. 

The paternal and maternal aunts described the children as always smiling, full of life, caring and well-mannered. 

The prosecution also introduced evidence of Ragin's criminal past. Ragin pleaded guilty in 1990-91 to shooting and killing his best friend, Kelvin Billups, on Thanksgiving. He served 15 years in prison voluntary manslaughter in South Carolina.  He got out at age 30.

After being released, Ragin met Crystal and they later married.

The defense presented character witnesses on Ragin's behalf.  Among them were former prison workers and members of his family.  Many described Ragin as a quiet and calm person. Cousins and parents said he was family-oriented and enjoyed playing sports as a child.  Cousin Angela White said she visited Ragin while he in prison in South Carolina. She described him as “a good father, husband, brother and person altogether.”

The Ragin family talked about being a “close knit” family.  They said they didn't know John and Crystal were having marital problems and were on the verge of a divorce until the murders.

Tuesday, the jury heard closing arguments and began deliberating the case just before 4 p.m. They will deliberate and decide if Ragin with face life in prison or execution for the murder’s of his family. 

 

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