New details emerge in 2011 disappearance of Va. woman Bethany Decker; boyfriend arraigned

The former live-in boyfriend of 21-year-old Bethany Decker, who was last seen in her Ashburn, Virginia, apartment almost 10 years ago, has been arraigned on abduction charges.

There are also new details of the case against Ronald Roldan, revealed in a recently filed charging document. He was extradited to Loudoun County on Tuesday after he was released from a North Carolina prison for shooting a girlfriend there.

Roldan appeared by video from the county jail during the brief appearance before Loudoun County District Court Judge Thomas Gallahue. Roldan showed no reaction when Gallahue told him the charge of abduction is a felony, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Roldan, garbed in a striped jail uniform and wearing glasses, listened intently and spoke clearly when identifying himself to the judge.

He said he believed his family was attempting to hire a private attorney to defend him. Roldan’s mother and another female family member watched from the second row of the courtroom.

The judge appointed Roldan a public defender for the time being, at the suggestion of public defender Ashi Mehrotra.

Mehrotra spoke quietly with Roldan’s family, and told the judge his agency would turn over the defense to a private attorney if one is hired. Roldan told the judge he approved of the decision.

Decker’s name was never mentioned in court Thursday, but a newly filed probable cause statement by Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office detective Mark Bush described Roldan telling conflicting stories about what happened to Decker, and provided insight into when investigators believe she disappeared.

Bethany Decker, of Loudoun County, was five months pregnant when she disappeared in January 2011. (Courtesy Kim Nelson)

According to Bush, phone records from Jan. 29, 2011, show Decker called her employer at 2:08 p.m., and asked to work an evening shift. A co-worker at Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Centreville remembers talking to Decker, according to the detective.

Investigators said that phone call was Decker’s last, since no other calls or texts originated from her phone, and no cell tower location information was ever recovered.

Roldan told investigators Decker left their apartment on Orchard Grass Terrace that afternoon, while he was in the kitchen. “The accused was allegedly unaware of Decker’s destination or her time of return. The Accused was also unable to provide a description of the clothes worn by Decker when she left the apartment,” according to the document.

Decker never arrived at work.

ATM records show Roldan left the apartment that afternoon, and made a withdrawal from his bank at 4:26 p.m.

He told investigators he returned to the apartment after getting a text from an ex-girlfriend, with whom he shares two children. Roldan told investigators the text was a reminder that he was scheduled to watch his children that evening.

Bush said Roldan sent two text messages to Decker’s cellphone — at 4:01 p.m. and 4:31 p.m. — to tell her he would be sitting with the children at their apartment. Phone tower information shows he was in the Sterling area at the time of the texts.

Based on the timeline, it is unclear whether Decker received or read the texts, since her phone was last used at 2:08 p.m.

In a separate interview with the ex-girlfriend, who said she dropped her children with Roldan at approximately 4:30 p.m., Roldan told her he wasn’t sure if Decker would be returning.

When the ex-girlfriend returned to pick up their children a few days later, Roldan told her Decker had not returned. The ex-girlfriend pointed out to Roldan that Decker’s car was in the apartment complex parking lot.

“The Accused could not offer any reasonable answer as to why the vehicle remained in the lot,” according to the probable cause statement.

As WTOP reported in March 2019, investigators were hopeful that a new look into suspicious activity on Decker’s Facebook account, in the days before she was reported missing, would provide help in solving the case.

The newly-filed charging document shows how investigators came to believe someone was impersonating Decker on her Facebook account.

Records obtained from Facebook, through a search warrant, showed Decker’s and Roldan’s individual Facebook accounts were both accessed from the same internet protocol (IP) address, beginning on Feb. 16, 2011. Over the next few days, the same IP addresses were consistently accessing both accounts, according to Bush.

“Roldan is suspected of having impersonated Decker to prevent family and friends from discovering her disappearance,” Bush wrote.

Three days later, on Feb. 19, 2011, Decker’s family realized she was missing, and filed a missing person’s report with the sheriff’s office.

In the days after Decker was reported missing, a search warrant was executed at the home of Roldan’s mother. Investigators found a key and key fob that belonged to Decker’s car.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kimberly Phillips did not disclose any details of the case against Roldan.

Decker’s remains have never been found, and investigators have never said they recovered any forensic evidence of murder.

It is unclear whether Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj will ask a grand jury to indict Roldan on additional charges, including a “no body” murder count.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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