Last person to see Bethany Decker enters plea in attack on another woman

WASHINGTON — Ronald Roldan, the last person to see pregnant Loudoun County mother Bethany Decker before she disappeared in 2011, has pleaded guilty in an attack on his girlfriend who was shot in the head.

Roldan had been charged with attempted murder after a 2014 domestic violence attack on girlfriend Vickey Willoughby in her home in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

On Thursday, the Moore County District Attorney’s Office said, Roldan pleaded guilty to two reduced charges — felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, and felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury.

Police responded to a 911 call for a domestic violence incident at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. Police say Willoughby shot Roldan in self-defense twice — once in the chest and once in the abdomen. Roldan grabbed Willoughby’s .38-caliber handgun and shot at her three times, hitting her in the head and leg. She lost an eye in the shooting.

The charges were consolidated into one sentence, with a minimum of six years and a maximum of eight years, three months.

After he finishes his prison time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will take custody of Roldan for deportation proceedings to Bolivia.

Loudoun County investigators have said that Roldan was living with Bethany Decker before she disappeared in January 2011, while she was five months pregnant.

Willoughby said Roldan had told her he could “make people disappear.”

Decker vanished after returning from a week with her husband in Hawaii while he was on leave. It was three weeks before she was reported missing.

Kim Nelson, Decker’s mother, had hoped for a longer sentence for Roldan.

“There is no sentence that can equate to the terror and suffering caused by Ronald to Vickey and others, including Bethany,” Nelson told WTOP.

“I am hoping that him being behind bars will allow someone who has information about Bethany to come forward so there can be justice for Bethany,” said Nelson.

“I pray that their heart would be moved to do the right thing so their [conscience will be] clear,” she said.

Willoughby said in a statement to WTOP, “I am disappointed in the gaps leading to technicalities and diminishing the consequences for such violence. This was not a first offense. Violent repeat offenders should be kept off the street. I fear for the next victim, in this country or another.”

Moore County assistant district attorney Peter Strickland said he made the decision to accept the plea agreement during jury selection.

Loudoun County investigators have never charged Roldan or named him as a suspect, but have said he is no longer willing to answer questions about Decker’s disappearance. Detectives have said, “there are no other suspects” other than Roldan in Decker’s disappearance.

Investigators have said they have no evidence that suggests Decker is alive or dead.

Kraig Troxell, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, says the department is aware of Roldan’s plea, “and our investigation on the Bethany Decker case continues.”

Decker was 21 when she disappeared. Her 27th birthday is Friday, May 13.

Nelson wished her daughter a happy birthday on her Facebook page.

“We have been waiting a long time but will not lose hope,” she said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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