Loudoun Co. prosecutors seek to transfer Bethany Decker 2011 disappearance case

Prosecutors in Loudoun County, Virginia, have asked a district court judge to transfer the 2011 abduction case against Ronald Roldan to a different court because he was living with 21-year-old Bethany Decker when she disappeared.

During a brief hearing Thursday, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Snapper Tams told the judge that under Virginia law, the proper jurisdiction to begin Roldan’s case is in juvenile and domestic court.

In a motion, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Russet Perry wrote, “Bethany Decker was cohabitating with the defendant, Ronald Roldan, within 12 months of the offense date” of Jan. 29, 2011.

If granted, the move could slightly slow the prosecution process, but would provide protection against an appeal if Roldan is ultimately convicted of abduction, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Bethany Decker
Bethany Anne Decker was last seen Jan. 29, 2011. (WTOP File Photo)

Regardless of whether Roldan’s preliminary hearing is held in general district or juvenile and domestic court, if a judge finds probable cause — or even if prosecutors fail to show probable cause — prosecutors could ask a Loudoun County grand jury to indict Roldan, which would result in the possibility of a trial in circuit court.

On Thursday, public defender Ashi Mehrotra voiced concern that he had not received evidence from the prosecution and so was unable to consider the ramifications of a transfer.

“I’m not even sure they were cohabitating — I’ve seen no evidence,” Mehrotra said.

District Court Judge Ian Williams ordered prosecutors to provide the defense with evidence it intends to use against Roldan.

Roldan participated in the hearing by video hookup from the county jail. He remains held without bond.

The case so far

Last month, Roldan was extradited to Loudoun County after he was released from a North Carolina prison for shooting a girlfriend there.

In 2014, he was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Vickey Willoughby in her home.

In May 2016, Roldan pleaded guilty to two reduced charges in North Carolina: felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, and felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury.

Since his arraignment in Loudoun County, prosecutors revealed new details of Decker’s and Roldan’s movements in the hours before and after her disappearance.

According to charging documents, Decker, who was five-months pregnant, was last heard from on Jan. 29, 2011, at 2:08 p.m., when she called her employer, Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Centreville. Roldan then told detectives Decker left their apartment on Orchard Grass Terrace in Ashburn that afternoon while he was in the kitchen.

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

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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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