Man gets 2 life terms in prison in mistaken murder of mother of 2


A jury convicted Richard Montano, left, of first-degree murder and arson in the death of Silvia Vaca Abacay, right. (Mug shot from the Fairfax County Police Department; Victim's photo from her obituary; Crime scene screenshot from CBS Washington affiliate WUSA9/YouTube)

Richard Montano, left, was sentenced in the murder of murder Silvia Vaca Abacay, right. (Mug shot from the Fairfax County Police Department; Victim’s photo from her obituary; Crime scene screenshot from CBS Washington affiliate WUSA9/YouTube)

A Virginia man learned his fate this week for beating, stabbing and setting fire to a mother of two he mistakenly thought was his ex-girlfriend in whose apartment she had been temporarily staying.

Richard Montano, 48, received two consecutive life sentences for the 2022 killing of Silvia “Kelly” Vaca Abacay, 40. He was convicted in October of first-degree murder and arson of an occupied dwelling.

“The extreme level of violence and complete disregard for human life demonstrated by Richard Montano is of a level rarely seen in Fairfax County,” said Descano in a statement. “The loss to Ms. Vaca Abacay’s family and loved ones is unimaginable. There is nothing that can undo her needless, senseless death, but as of today, the defendant will not be able to harm anyone else in our community.”

The Washington Post reported that Montano addressed the court through an interpreter, saying, “To all those who point their finger to me, I want to say to them that my conscience is clear.”

His attorney, Mandy Petrocelli, vowed to appeal the sentence. She said he was not “irremediable” or “entirely evil.” The Post reported she had asked for a sentence within the guidelines to “put his worst days in context” with other parts of his life, saying, “He is not callous, and he is not heartless. He sees it. He feels the pain every time his mother calls in tears.”

Chief Judge Penney Azcarate shared aggravating factors for the sentence: that he did not take responsibility for his actions, the extent of the premeditation of the killing, and that setting the victim’s body on fire is not reflected in the sentencing guidelines for arson of an occupied dwelling.

“Worst moments are weighed by the severity of those moments,” she said, the paper reported. “In your worst moments, you killed a daughter, a mother and a friend.”

Montano’s ex-girlfriend had ended their eight-year off-and-on relationship at the end of July 2022. He went to her apartment on Aug. 10 and waited for her. Vaca Abacay came home and encountered Montano. He stabbed her 10 times and then set her body on fire to try to cover up the crime. Prosecutor Kaitlin Morgan told the judge, “At some point, he had to have realized he had the wrong person. And yet, he kept going,” the Post reported.

A neighbor heard screaming and banging across the hall and called the police. When officers arrived, they saw smoke coming from the apartment and found Vaca Abacay on fire and suffering from stab wounds to the upper body. The fire was put out, and first responders tried to save her life, but she died there.

Descano described the crime as one of the most disturbing he’d seen.

Detectives quickly identified Montano as a suspect, saying surveillance video captured him entering the apartment without his ex-girlfriend’s knowledge multiple times in the month before the murder, authorities said. He was arrested at his home in Arlington.

Montano’s ex was in court to hear the verdict.

“I feel guilty,” she said, Washington NBC affiliate WRC reported. “Part of me feels guilty because he came for me, not for her, and she has to pay for something that’s supposed to happen to me.”

A fundraising page described the victim as a devoted mother of two and a loving wife.

“Kelly was friendly and full of joy, and always there to help others,” said the raising money to bury her in her native Bolivia. “She was loved by so many and will be deeply missed. Her family and friends are heartbroken at their loss.”
After the killing, Abacay’s friend Yerin Ronero was stunned.

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