February 17, 1992
Ruth Dickie (39) is assaulted and stabbed to death in her apartment
Around 10:45 on the evening of February 17, Dickie’s downstairs neighbor overheard Dickie arguing loudly with a man in the hall. The argument moved into Dickie’s home, at which point the neighbor called an apartment maintenance employee who knocked on Dickie’s door. No one answered the knocks but when the employee heard what sounded like a person being dragged across the floor, he called police. Dickie was found on her back on the floor. She was bleeding from a neck wound, did not appear to be breathing, and was naked from the waist down.
Dicke’s autopsy revealed she had been stabbed five times in the neck; two of the wounds would have proved fatal on their own. Pieces of physical evidence were also collected, in the form of semen and hair.
Angel Francisco Breard was arrested 6 months later, after another alleged attempted rape. His DNA profile was matched to the semen left behind at Dickie’s murder scene, pubic hairs found on Dickie’s body were found to be microscopically similar to Breard’s, and hairs clutched in Dickie’s hand were microscopically similar to Breard’s as well. Breard admitted to the killing, claiming he had been forced to commit the crime due to a “Satanic curse” placed upon him by his former father-in-law.
Breard was offered a plea deal which would spare him from the death penalty, an offer he rejected in hopes of finding mercy with the jury. He was convicted of Dickie’s attempted rape and murder, receiving a 10-year sentence for the attempted rape charge. The jurors decided that, “based upon findings of Breard’s future dangerousness and the vileness of the crime,” he should be sentenced to death for Dickie’s murder.
Breard attempted an appeal by arguing the emotionally-charged testimony made by Dickie’s mother and the graphic photographs of the murder scene had unjustly affected the jurors. The appeal was denied and Supreme Court of Virginia Justice Roscoe B. Stephenson Jr. wrote the photographs, “though gruesome, are admissible if they adequately portray the manner in which an accused committed the offense.”
Breard’s death sentence became the center of debate on an international level. The International Court of Justice requested the U.S. prevent the State of Virginia from commencing with Breard’s execution and stated he deserved a new trial, arguing Breard, who was a citizen of Paraguay, had not been informed of his right to meet with a Paraguayan consular official during his arrest. Additionally, Paraguay’s Deputy Foreign Minister Leila Rachid stated, “Neither Paraguay nor Argentina [the country in which Breard had been born] was notified of the imprisonment. A boy like that, with all his deficiencies and his linguistic limitations was subjected to the luck of the justice system of that country.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that Breard’s defense team had been too late to raise their legal challenge and allowed Virginia to continue with Breard’s sentencing. Gov. James S. Gilmore III took 90 minutes to review Breard’s case following the Court’s decision, ultimately refusing to stay the execution. “Mr. Breard having committed a heinous and depraved murder, and his guilt being unquestioned, and the legal issues being resolved against him, and the U.S. Supreme Court having denied the petitions of Breard and Paraguay, I find no reason to interfere with his sentence,” Gov. Gilmore stated. He also noted a delay would have “the practical effect of transferring responsibility” from the State of Virginia to the International Court of Justice.
Breard’s sentece was carried out hours after the Supreme Court’s rejection of his appeal. He was executed by lethal injection on April 14, 1998, at the age of 32. His final words were, “May glory be to God.”
“1998 Angel Francisco Breard.” The Roanoke Times. January 18, 2017. Updated: November 19, 2019. Accessed: February 17, 2021. https://roanoke.com/news/crime/angel-francisco-breard/image_bef02215-c25f-5abc-9c05-9f0c57cdb6d3.html
Denniston, Lyle and Matthews, Mark. “Killer put to death in Va.” The Baltimore Sun. April 15, 1998
“Virginia Executes Paraguayan For Murder Amid Controversy, Debate.” Chicago Tribune. April 15, 1998
Stout, David. “Clemency Denied, Paraguayan Is Executed.” The New York Times. April 15, 1998
“Paraguay angered by US execution.” BBC. April 15, 1998. Accessed: February 17, 2021. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/78602.stm
Masters, Brooke A. “World Court Tells U.S. To Halt Va. Execution.” The Washington Post. April 10, 1998
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit. Angel Francisco BREARD, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Samuel V. PRUETT, Warden, Mecklenburg Correctional Center, Respondent-Appellee. The Human Rights Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association, Amicus Curiae. No. 96-25. Decided: January 20, 1998. Archived: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-4th-circuit/1200204.html
“State Supreme Court upholds man’s capital murder conviction.” Daily Press [Newport News, Virginia]. June 11, 1994