Senseless killer suddenly pleads guilty

cover-jayne-sororityOn the eve of his trial, 20-year-old Michael Stuart Pritchett, one half the duo that killed a woman for little more than her laptop computer, has joined his colleague in crime, William Douglas Gentry Jr., in pleading guilty, according to reports from the Daily Progress, the Newsplex, and NBC29. The November 2007 execution-style slaying of 26-year-old UVA grad and AIDS Services Group employee Jayne Warren "Jayner" McGowan has never made any sense.

–last updated 4:10pm, Tuesday, February 2

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Why is it the motive of the murderers has always been described as "senseless," or "for little more than her laptop?"
Those guys may be really stupid, but surely they've seen some TV shows in which criminals got caught.
Why would the police and the press not report their motive. Or why wouldn't they investigate it?
Anyone taken a look at their kin people? Or Ms. McGowan's previous employment, or events in D.C.?
Maybe it's just like a TV murder.

"Charlottesville may as well plant a sign at the city court house, KILL IN CHARLOTTESVILLE AND YOU WILL NEVER FACE THE CHAIR.

The setup isn’t hard to figure out, even for the criminals!"

It's certainly true the CA office here doesn't seem to hand out the death penalty (at least not that I can recollect in my time here). I wonder, then, why we don't see a higher murder rate here than we do? I mean, the logic of a lot of the pro-death penalty folks who post here seems to be that without the amazing deterrent effect of the DP, criminals will run wild. But I don't think this area has a particularly higher murder rate than comparable areas. What's up with that?

Hoolarious, it is a no brainer that most Demmocrats in Charlottesville oppose the death penalty. Last I heard, the state of VA still permits execution. I question any who work for a city,county govt., and who hold power with regard to sentencing, being permitted to NEVER consider a death sentence. It seems to me, as any Com Att is so bound to his,her personal religious beliefs, he should consider he chose the wrong job. For example, a minister may have been a better choice for this person. Separation of church and state is the law of the land, isn't it? I'm not the only person in Charlottesville who feels this way. And if this poor girl were my daughter, I would have demanded they consider imposing a Death sentence. Any thoughts concerning how the Com. Att would handle such a situation? As far as I know, no one has presented the office with a challenge in this regard.

Get Real, you keep arguing that most Democrats in Cville oppose the DP as if someone here (me?) were disagreeing with you...I'm not. I've acknowledged that the DP is not handed out here, hasn't been that I can recollect. Ease up, man, you're not getting opposition on that point.

You say you're not the only person in Cville who feels this way--I'm sure that's true. But the CA in the city is an elected position. People voted for the person they wanted in that role. Presumably people considered whether or not a given candidate seems inclined to hand out the DP. Perhaps you are simply outnumbered, locally, in your perspective on the DP.

I'm certainly not saying the CA is bound to religious beliefs; you seem to be confusing my general assertion that there are many citizens in the nation who oppose the DP on religious grounds with some kind of specific claim about a specific person (which is not what I'm doing. The DP is permitted in Virginia, but I don't think it's mandatory, nor are there quotas that the different areas have to meet. I don't think anyone is saying "darn it, Charlottesville is just not executing its fair share of criminals."

"As far as I know, no one has presented the office with a challenge in this regard." As far as I know, no one has done so either -- and isn't that kind of telling? As in, maybe fewer people are clamoring to execute our local murderers than you think.

I'm glad he at least had the sense to spare her family from a trial that would've surely ended in a conviction anyway. Shame neither of these two f@cksticks is going to get needle-in-the-arm justice, and for that I blame our local commonwealths attorneys, but here's hoping they each have a short miserable life behind bars.

Unsurprised to see the defenders of the Charlottesville Com Att, chime in. I think what we need is a more honest,upfront approach from the office. Why don't you people in the Com Att's department just admit to members of the public, that you oppose the death penalty. It is obvious, this is the position. I believe we have too many murders for a respectable University town of this size. I think it is dangerous for the criminal element to be assured, life in prison is the max sentence in this town. If Charlottesvile were ever to suffer any horrific criminal incident, it is unjust the death penalty appears to have been ruled out for the town.

This was very simply a case of two scumbag rednecks looking for some cash for beer and weed. They saw a woman alone in a house and decided to kill her for her belongings. Inbred, stupid, greedy losers. They live and she died. Where is the fairness in that?

Senseless is not the word. Crack Cocaine is...they needed money to buy drugs. They could have just taken the laptop but they killed her anyways. asdasd clearly has watched to much TV and clearly wants to find a story when there is not one, maybe you should get a job at The Hook.

If one believes in the interconnectedness of life and that we are all part of one human family, why would you want to see any of your relatives killed? Even if you don't believe that, what purpose beyond satisfying some atavistic thirst for revenge does capital punishment serve? It is not really a deterrent. Most civilized countries do not kill for even the most heinous crimes and their crime rates, especially violent crime rates, are much lower than ours. People who kill other people are often quite disturbed and simple-minded souls, wouldn't you say? And that simple-mindedness often absorbs the values and morals of the culture in which they live. In a culture such as ours which often sensationalizes violence, which offers daily amusements on the subject of murder, which is often at war, and which, yes, sanctions the taking of life when it thinks it has good reason, we shouldn't be surprised when one or two of our children take our culture of death a little too seriously and in moments of madness, intoxication, or worse find some reason or impulse to eliminate their brother or sister when they get in their way. I personally am heartened that the city in which I live seems reluctant to pursue death for awful crimes. It keeps alive the illusion that civilization becomes more enlightened over time...

In my position as a counselor I happened to work with one of these men when he was a teenager. In NO WAY am I excusing his actions! But if you understood where he came from. The pathetic excuses for parents he had. He was at that time, a decent, caring kid. He will pay with his life regardless, rotting in a cell. His parents should go with him. They F^%$(*& abandoned him and were party to his abuse and neglect, which robbed him eventually of his compassion for anyone other than himself.

How horribly sad and senseless .

Some thing's are just too difficult to comprehend .


sorry 4 her, and her family, but miss pasty might ask for 10 yrs, but a meat beater she ask for 100yrs.

To Hobbit: I don't disagree that the past can affect your future, BUT every individual is 100% accountable for themselves. I personally have been sexually abused by a male family member & physically abused as a child, emotionally abused, raised in an alcoholic household in a religious cult, & am a survivor of domestic violence. I was also drugged and raped by a neighbor while at a friends home a few years ago and became pregnant. At that point I decided not to have an abortion but to give it up instead, then I miscarried, and turned to drugs because I just didn't care any more. No matter what has been done to me and the decisions other's have made that have profoundly impacted me as a person I have always been a responsible adult and there isn't anyone that could begin to imagine these things about me. The few I've ever told truly are shocked because they don't believe anyone could overcome such difficulties. It's not easy, but I am accountable for myself. It's not my fault that these things have happened, but I'm certain that the people that are responsible for it all would not be hurt by any poor decisions I might make in order to deal with what life has handed me. I would only hurt myself and other's that don't deserve it.

So. While I feel for people that have more hardship to endure than other's I feel zero sympathy for those that take it out on people that don't deserve it. It's a hard row to hoe, but it's not an excuse for being a homicidal maniac. It's sad, and will happen again to someone else, but to say that if only we knew where he came from....hopefully your counseling advice was more solid than that.

The reports indicate that they were stoned at the time of the murder - so yes, weed. Also - my understanding from the press is that the parents took the death penalty off of the table.

As long as we have the same group in the Com Att office, no one will ever recieve a death penalty. The powers (and the reining-local DEMOCRATS) are all in on this together. It appears, they don't believe the death penalty is ever justified, because they don't agree with death as punishment. Look at the sentencing history while they have held their posts.
I agree with the counselor Hobbitt. Neglectful parents are coddled in this town. The killers were groomed for many years, and while the schools,social services and juvee system let it happen.

truthbetold, So they say, they were stoned?? They are also filthy people lacking a conscience. Too bad taxpayers must clothe and feed the @@33$%^'s for the rest of their lives. Everyone knows the Catholic parents expressed they didn't want the men killed. The girl's parents gave the Com Att office an out, this time. The actual,real truth here, continues to be the fact, the current Com Att's office will NEVER offer the option of a death sentence in Charlottesville.
That is my point here.

As long as you live in a liberal town, not one of these shrub huggers is going to offer the death penalty. To them the only precious life is the one thats still breathing, not the one that isn't. Don't milk a cow, drink soy, don't build business you might employ people and then how could we make you pay for them not to work, don't punish murders by taking their life you should pay for them to stay alive until they die naturally, yada yada yada...

I say give as good as she got, that is whats fair to the poor woman that lost her life. If they had to feel the terror she felt, feel the bullets as they entered their body like she did and every criminal out there knew they would have to face the same kind of fate their victims did, I bet you billions violent crime would fall down to nothing!

I know many fine citizens of the Catholic faith and I respect they are often against the death penalty. I also believe in the separation of church and the govt. It was understandable that the parents of the girl be given an opportunity for input. The part that floors me, EVERY TIME someone is murdered in Charlottesville, it is a GIVEN they will never be put to death. The Com Att office, in association with certain lawyers, make sure of it too. Not too long ago, a man killed a little kid here. Morgan Harrington may possibly have been murdered within the city limits. It is appropriate the court staff move beyond own their personal religious beliefs or political slant. Charlottesville may as well plant a sign at the city court house, KILL IN CHARLOTTESVILLE AND YOU WILL NEVER FACE THE CHAIR.
The setup isn't hard to figure out, even for the criminals!

well, go figure, how about you go to college, go to law school, become an attorney and hand out the death penalty right and left? i mean, you sound really smart -- why not work hard to be come part of the solution instead of sniping at those who have a different viewpoint than you do about the efficacy of the death penalty as deterrent and about the morality of state-sponsored killing (Catholics, for example)?

then you also have to admit that other citizens resent their tax dollars being used to do something their religion teaches them is wrong--that is, execute people. there's not really any way to make every single taxpayer in the u.s. happy with everything his/her tax dollars are used for, is there?

I meant, that I feel there are too many murders in Charlottesville. Just expressing my opinion.
Why did it take Michael Pritchett so long to "tell the truth and admit" he killed the girl? Doing so,the night before the trial shows what a manipulator he is, and I hope the court sees through his last minute confession. To me, that shows he is really not sorry for what he did.
I must admit,I resent my tax dollars being used to house and feed the likes of him, for the rest of his days.

If Lee Malvo had done all of his shootin up, here in Cville, the boys downtown would have hired L. Snook, and ole Lee wouldn't now be facing the goodbye needle. Scary thought!

Get Real, you don't have any evidence that there are "too many murders" for a town this size (I'm not sure what "respectable" means, nor what bearing the university has). Any murder is too many, of course, but the question is, statistically, how do we compare? I haven't done the research, so for me it's an open question. You haven't done the research, but you seem to have drawn a conclusion nonetheless.

Do I believe the world would be a better place if Hitler and McVeigh had been given life in prison? Better how? Better as in safer? I think it makes minimal difference to public safety whether someone is imprisoned for life (no parole) or put to death. I do not believe the DP has a deterrent effect, and the preponderance of the research bears me out. I'm concerned mostly with public safety, not with vengeance or playing God ("you get to live, but you die") or anything like that. So I read "better" as "safer," and I don't see how executing McVeigh made us safer than imprisoning him for life with no parole would have made us. Or Hitler.

Soyhugger,Hoolarious, Question: Do you believe the world would be a better place if Adolf Hitler and Timothy Mcveigh had been given life in prison? Just wondering.

Hoolarious, I understand exactly what you are saying. I know the cards are stacked against the DP in Charlottesville, because of the politics at hand. I also realize the Com Att position, is an elected office, although there is only one choice on the ballot. I'm unsure what drives the local office to steer toward one view, but I understand religious leanings are a big part of it. And THAT should be against the law. I just think it is unfair and possibly unwise for any city to take the DP option completely off the table. There are some crimes wherein the general public would want a death penalty.

Downing, Such a balanced approach, as your Father had while Com Att, is exactly what is missing in this city. It makes no sense whatsoever, to completely rule out the DP option. God forbid, this city were to experience a worst incident within the current political climate. I wonder how some of the anti DP posters would respond, if God forbid, horrific crime happened to their own daughter? Many of the victims don't die easily. Many in prison don't have a conscience or regret their crime. They just drain off of the system. Life in prison is set up to be too easy. How do I know? An acquaintance of mine worked in the state yard. He told me, many of the lifeies really get used to the routine. They enjoy the food, watch TV, read, and even make and enjoy friendships, All without being "required" to work. The liberal brainwashing in this city is getting old. They think they know it all. They believe they are smarter than the other side. The true crime reports locally are unknown to the public. People are afraid, even in good neighborhoods, and they should be.

My Dad was Commonwealth Attorney for 20 years and asked for the death penalty once. Sometimes there are crimes so heinous and such an insult to common decency and humanity that they deserve the death penalty and this is such a crime. I feel pretty certin my Dad would have asked for it in this case.
But there are a couple of other things this murder shows. Back in my Dad's day this crime would have been very rare which is why he only asked for the death penalty once. Today we seem to be desensitized to horrible crimes like this and there seem to be a lot more of them. The other thing is that this crime has stolen my sense of safety in Charlottesville. Something awful can happen to you anywhere at any time.

quote: "The other thing is that this crime has stolen my sense of safety in Charlottesville. Something awful can happen to you anywhere at any time."

I would have thought the McGowan murder would already have done that????

quote: "The true crime reports locally are unknown to the public."

Absolutely! This past summer and fall this town was busted wide open with vandalisms and thefts. There wasn't a neighborhood in town where residents weren't asking, "WTF is going on?" As soon as the weather warms up a tad, it will start again.

And I am a firm believer that the "missing person" Morgan Harrington case would never have been exposed if the cop shoppes and/or UVA had any choice in the matter.

Downing Smith was one of the finest public servants this community has had the good fortune to have. I once sat on a jury where he was involved, not as the prosecutor but as a witness.(It was a perjury case during the time he was an assistant Commonwealth Attorney for the city. He brought charges against some habitual felon who had lied in General District Court.)
As for the death penalty,I can accept the intellectual arguments against it. There is the issue of racial and economic bias in its application, historically. And most importantly,the issue of a possible wrongful conviction.
But on a visceral level-where there is no question of guilt, where the crime is horrific and inexcusable, I must admit I feel differently. Its not about vengeance, but about protecting society.
The argument is made that somehow one who has committed a horrible, senseless crime like the McGowan murder is not really responsible for his act due to past circumstances in his own life.
Well neither is an animal infected with rabies-it really does not know what its doing either. But we destroy it for the good of society. Why not the same for some psychopathic killers? Or for that matter for some sex offenders like brutal rapists or those who have sexually attacked small children?
As for the religious argument I won't go into that, being one who is pro-choice on the abortion issue and who has come to view capital punishment as the appropriate penalty in some circumstances.
Incidentally, I think people are likely correct about the Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney's view of the death penalty.

truthbetold, they didn't do this for weed...crack? maybe...weed? no. potheads don't do sh** like this. It's cases like these that make me reluctantly agree we need a death penalty, and I'm surprised it wasn't sought. I guess there always is a risk you won't get a conviction and the Commonwealth's Attorney bargained that risk away by letting the defendants bargain the death penalty off the table, which is somewhat understandable. Still a person that puts the black-market dollar value on par with a human life, really isn't human himself, and our species is better off without such cancers on it. I wouldn't lose ANY sleep if something really bad happened to these guys in prison.

i meant "the black market dollar value of a laptop on par with a human life"

Those two made choices,THE GIRL WAS AN INNOCENT VICTIM IN HER OWN HOME. So we'll take two bumbling criminals and send em to badguy school for maybe 20 years on our dime, then release them on society, angry, buff,well fed and experienced at not getting caught doin dirt. There's more than two solutions to every problem and some of them will work if they are implemented. As for local law enforcement, if ya go North or South on 29 from the farm where they found Morgan Harrington, formiles there are signs littering the landscape warning u to click it or ticket, Whithin a mile of anchorage farm there is a 20'x50' billboard (which probably made Morgan and her friends feel safe on their ride in to C'ville)it says seatbelts strictly enforced"... abduction murder and likely rape...not so much. Both of these crimes strike home for me , on top of the unsolved "29 stalker" case, as a father I want action, but realize the authorities probably have more info than can be publicized but that doesn't change the fact that the body of Miss Harrington was found near my home, and I worked with family of the killers of Mcgowan when that happened. This really is about a preditorial lack of respect for women and a result of the absence of fear of consequences, parents who don't care have no power over their kids early on, and the kids grow up with poor impulse control and as they say birds of a feather flock together