Arlington man convicted of murder after killing, setting Falls Church woman on fire

An Arlington, Virginia, man was convicted of murder Friday in the 2022 killing of a Falls Church woman whose body he set on fire.

Richard Montano, 48, was found guilty of first-degree murder and arson in the slaying of 40-year-old Silvia Vaca Abacay last year.

“As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I’ve seen considerable crime scenes and photos, but the photos from this case stood out in terms of the severity of the victim’s injuries,” Steve Descano said in a statement.

“Nothing can undo Silvia’s death, but a conviction ensures that the defendant is no longer a danger to members of our community. I hope today’s verdict provides the victim’s family with the first step towards healing.”

Authorities said Vaca Abacay was temporarily staying with a friend who happened to be Montano’s ex-girlfriend when the murder happened.

According to a news release, trial evidence showed that Montano had gone into the apartment on the afternoon of Aug. 10, 2022, “likely intending to kill” Vaca Abacay’s friend and that Vaca Abacay was “likely mistaken” for her.

Medical examiners concluded that Vaca Abacay died from multiple sharp- and blunt-force wounds before Montano set her body on fire.

He faces life in prison and is set to be sentenced Jan. 19, 2024.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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