FAIRFAX, Va. (DC News Now) – New details in a gruesome Virginia murder case emerged Tuesday in a Fairfax County courtroom.
The case of Richard Montano, a man accused of stabbing and then setting fire to a mother of two, will now face a grand jury after a Fairfax County judge said there were enough probable causes to the case to advance.
It’s been a tough day in court for the family and friends of Slyvia “Kelly” Vaca Abacay, the 40-year-old who was killed. The television screens for those in the courtroom played ring doorbell camera footage showing her entering her Falls Church apartment — perhaps the last video of her being captured alive — and police body-worn camera footage showing , which the responding officers saw as they walked in.
Sheriff’s deputies escorted Richard Montano to a courtroom in Fairfax County with his hands tied behind his back three months after the alleged murder. He was wearing overalls from the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
In the courtroom, three witnesses described what happened on that tragic day in August.
The first witness was Abacay’s neighbor Robert Newton, who lived in the apartment across from Abacay.
Newton testified that his ring camera caught Montano entering the apartment in front of Abacay. Then he heard screams.
“I heard screams,” he said under oath. “I didn’t think anything of it at first… [it was] somehow disturbing.”
He later called it a “loud scream at the top of his lungs,” a scream that sounded like a damsel in distress. The only word he could understand was “no”.
Newton testified that his last call to the police was to say smoke and fire were coming from the building. He also shared that he thought he heard a window open.
He then went outside to wait for police when he saw a man he identified as Montano hurrying with a “plastic bag … something that looked like a knife … wrapped in a white cloth with red stains” from the apartment complex went away.
Prosecutors called a Fairfax County officer to the witness stand and showed his body-worn camera video of the crime scene. In the video, the officer broke through the window to enter the apartment, which was already consumed by fire and smoke. Inside he found Abacay.
“Looks like murder,” he said in the video. The officer testified that it was difficult to pinpoint the source of the blood, but he initially believed Abacay was deceased when he arrived.
Much like immediately after Abacay’s death, her family and friends expressed their love for her outside the courtroom on Tuesday.
A cousin and close friend, who asked not to be named, spoke to DC News Now after the preliminary hearing. They called Kelly “loyal” and said she was “like a sister” for spending so much time together.
After the hearing, they said they wanted Montano “to pay for it” and hoped he suffers first-degree murder because “nobody deserves that happen to them.”
For now, he’s only charged with second-degree murder, plus either arson or vandalizing an apartment.
There was no discussion of a possible motive at the hearing, although it may be raised during the grand jury trial. A third witness, Detective Christian Chamberlain of the Fairfax County Homicide/Major Crimes Unit, said the autopsy report hasn’t come back, although he observed wounds on Abacay’s head and neck with burn marks all over his body.