Re-released: Darrell Rice readies for freedom
For Darrell David Rice, there may be something of a silver lining to spending the past nine months in federal prison: he has an airtight alibi for the night of October 17, when 20-year-old Morgan Harrington disappeared after attending a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
After completing the prison term handed down for violating the terms of his probation on his 11-year attempting kidnapping sentence, Rice will be released December 18, and his attorney says Rice hopes his freedom won't generate the kind of hysteria that erupted when he first left prison two and a half years ago.
"He just wants to live his life, not bother anyone, and not have them bother him," says Fairfax-based attorney James Connell III.
In 2007, Rice left prison after serving his sentence for attempting to kidnap a female bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park in 1997. While that's the most serious conviction on Rice's record, he was also indicted for the 1996 double slaying of two female hikers in Shenandoah National Park, although the charges were dropped after DNA from an unknown male was found at the scene.
Rice was also eyed as a suspect in the case of the so-called "29 Stalker," the still unsolved string of stalkings that authorities believe culminated in the murder of 24-year-0ld Harrisonburg native Alicia Showalter Reynolds, who was allegedly tricked into pulling her car over on Route 29.
Given that highly-publicized history, when Rice arrived on buccolic Kent Island in summer 2007, there was an uproar, with rumors abounding on message boards that Rice was stalking women on secluded trails, that he'd highjacked a schoolbus, and that he'd cut off his GPS-equipped tracking device, and involved in a police shootout.
Some people in Queen Anne County went "hysterical" that fall, according to the sheriff's department spokesman. This time, the same spokesman says he's not anticipating a similar response because Rice's mother, Lenna Mays–- Rice's reason for living there–- has moved away.
Mays' former phone number has been disconnected, and attorney Connell says he, too, believes she has moved away from the spacious waterfront home on Plantation Lane. Although he could not provide a forwarding address, Connell confirms that Rice will be moving in again with Mays upon his release, wherever she lives.
Whether or not Rice discloses his new address, it will become public knowledge within 72 hours of his release, as he is required, as part of his probation, to place his name on the sex offender registry of whichever state he inhabits, according to Brian McGinn, spokesperson for the Western District of Virginia U.S. Attorney's office. Such registries typically list home address and place of employment. In addition, Rice will be monitored by GPS device for 24 months.
Admittedly, those same conditions didn't stop him from violating his probation previously. However, some court watchers wondered how seriously to take the probation transgressions that sent him back to federal prison in Petersburg: smoking marijuana and watching what prosecutors called "pornography" but which went unspecified in court other than being likened to the HBO cable network.
“The court has to decide [if] it’s Reefer Madness or it isn’t," said Rice's federal defender Fred Heblich during the probation violation hearing last March.
Rice's supporters have long argued that he is a reformed offender who had nothing to do with any of the unsolved crimes of which he has been suspected.
In an open letter to the citizens of Kent Island at the height of the Rice frenzy, Rice's former Charlottesville attorney Deirdre Enright wrote, "You have nothing to fear from Darrell Rice, and we hope that he has nothing to fear from you." In an even stronger endorsement, she added, "After all these years, we count him as a friend as well as a client, and he is welcome in our homes and around our children."
Whether that welcome still stands is an unanswered question, as Enright did not return the Hook's repeated calls for comment.