Judge sends quadruple killer behind bars for life

John Ragin at formal sentencing hearing June 26, 2014.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News judge has sentenced the man convicted of brutally murdering his wife and three stepchildren to multiple life prison sentences.

John Ragin appeared in Newport News Circuit Court Thursday for formal sentencing.

Evidence presented during the month-long trial indicated he stabbed his wife, Crystal Ragin, and her three children a total of 74 times before pouring gasoline on their bodies, burning one of the victims and trying to burn down their Old Courthouse Way apartment on August 18, 2011.

After the trial, Ragin dismissed his attorneys, and at Thursday’s proceedings, he represented himself on his own motion to have the court set aside the jury’s guilty verdicts. He claimed violations of evidence rules, witness testimony and his civil rights.

Aiming his argument at prosecutors, Ragin asked the court, “At what point are they going to uphold their duty and make the evidence meet the due process standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt? At what point are they going to uphold their duty and realize this evidence is subject to two different interpretations?”

Prosecutors argued Ragin was not only ably represented by his three attorneys, but also got a fair trial.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn characterized Ragin as a cold blooded, remorseless killer: “Mr. Ragin made no mention at all about his family this whole trial. This whole process has been about him, and I hope we don’t lose sight that this is about a 32-year-old mother who lost not only her life, but the lives of her children.”

Chief Judge Timothy Fisher denied Ragin’s motion and upheld both the jury’s recommended sentences and the sentence he imposed in April:

  • Three life prison terms for the capital murders of 15-year-old Sierra, 11-year-old LaKwan and 6-year-old Rasheed
  • 40 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Crystal Ragin, John’s wife
  • one life prison term for arson
  • five years each for four unlawful stabbing convictions.

The jury convicted 38-year-old Ragin in April and recommended all sentences except those for the capital murder convictions. Jury members could not reach a unanimous decision on the question of life or death, so the judge imposed the life in prison sentences.

The day after the jury’s sentence was handed down, Ragin spoke exclusively to WAVY.com from behind barsHe said he had no intention of spending the rest of his life in a prison cell.

“I can’t help but hurt about the loss of my family, but at the same time I have to hurt about the situation I’m dealing with,” Ragin said. “The entire time I’ve said I’m innocent, and when I left home my family was alive.”

Ragin repeated that he had been wrongly accused and wrongly convicted: “I’m not the first person who was found guilty and is innocent. I won’t be the last. They got out. I’ll get out.”

“My future does not consist of life in prison until I’ve fought my last remedy for appeal,” he said. “And because I understand so much about my case, I know my final result for me will not be life in prison. I will win this on appeal.”

Judge Fisher noted in court that Ragin has filed an appeal in this case.

John Ragin, who claims his innocence and chose to testify in his defense only after his conviction, is now headed to state prison without chance of parole.

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