FAIRFAX, Va. (DC News Now) — New details in a gruesome murder case in Virginia came out in a Fairfax County courtroom on Tuesday.
The case of Richard Montano, a man accused of stabbing and then setting a mother of two on fire, is now headed for a grand jury after a Fairfax County judge said there’s enough probable cause to move the case forward.
It was a tough day in court for the family and friends of Slyvia “Kelly” Vaca Abacay, the 40-year-old who was killed. Played on the TV screens for those in the courtroom was the Ring doorbell camera footage that showed her entering her Falls Church apartment — perhaps the last video capturing her alive — and the police body-worn camera footage showing what responding officers saw when they went inside.
Sheriff’s deputies escorted Richard Montano into a Fairfax County courtroom three months after the alleged murder with his hands cuffed behind his back. He wore a jumpsuit from the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Inside the courtroom, three witnesses outlined what happened on that tragic August day.
The first witness was Abacay’s neighbor Robert Newton, who lived in the apartment across from Abacay.
Newton testified that his Ring camera captured Montano entering the apartment before Abacay. Then, he heard screaming.
“I heard some screaming going on,” he said under oath. “At first I didn’t think anything… [it was] kind of disruptive.”
Later, he called it a “loud, full-throated scream,” one that sounded like a woman in distress. The only word he could make out was “no.”
Newton testified that his final call to police was to share that there was smoke and fire coming out of the building. He also shared he thought he heard a window open.
Then, he went outside to wait for law enforcement when he saw a man he identified as Montano walking away quickly from the apartment complex with a “plastic bag… something that looked like a knife… in a white cloth with red stains.”
Prosecutors called a Fairfax County officer to the stand as a witness, showing his body-worn camera video from the scene. In the video, the officer broke through the window to enter the apartment, which was already consumed by fire and smoke. He found Abacay inside.
“Looks like homicide,” he said in the video. The officer testified that it was hard to tell the source of the blood, but he did initially believe Abacay was deceased when he arrived.
Much like they did in the immediate aftermath of Abacay’s death, her family and friends expressed their love for her outside the courtroom on Tuesday.
A cousin and a close friend, who did not want to be identified, spoke with DC News Now after the preliminary hearing. They called Kelly “loyal” and said she was “like a sister” because of how much time they spent together.
Following the hearing, they said they want Montano to “pay for it,” saying they hope he gets first-degree murder because “nobody deserves for this to happen to them.”
Right now, he’s only being charged with second-degree murder, plus burning or destroying a dwelling.
During the hearing, there was no discussion of a potential motive, though that could come up during the Grand Jury trial. A third witness, Detective Christian Chamberlain with the Fairfax County Homicide/Major Crimes Unit, said the autopsy report had not come back yet, though he observed wounds on Abacay’s head and neck with burn marks throughout her body.