Marines’ Decision to Try Woman Greeted by Furor : Virginia: State authorities decided that a female Leatherneck acted in self-defense when she shot to death a male Marine who had stalked her, assaulted her, and broke into her home wielding a bayonet.
For weeks, he’d been stalking her, threatening her.
When Marine Cpl. Anthony Goree broke into her Woodbridge, Va., apartment last June at 3 a.m., wielding a bayonet, Rayna Ross, also a Marine, shot and killed him. It was justifiable homicide, Prince William, Va., police said.
But now the Marine Corps has charged Ross with murder. She could spend the rest of her life in prison if convicted. And Prince William police and others are outraged.
Although the slaying occurred outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base, the corps was required to investigate because two Marines were involved. In December, Ross was charged with murder, and this month, she appeared before a Quantico, Va., military judge who is expected to recommend whether she should be court-martialed, officials said.
“I’m appalled but not surprised,” said Patricia M. Gromley, a former Marine and director of the Military Project of the Women’s Resource and Education Institute, a Washington-based think tank. “For the military to pick up on this after the local prosecutor found it justifiable is way out of bounds.
“They couldn’t get a single prosecution in Tailhook, but, by God, they’re going to get her,” said Gromley, adding that she suspected sexism in the Marine investigation.
Richard Cantarella, a Prince William police detective who investigated the shooting, testified at Ross’ Quantico hearing.
“There was no question that this was self-defense,” Cantarella said. “I believe this guy was in there to do some serious bodily harm or to kill her.”
Within days of the killing, Prince William County Commonwealth’s Atty. Paul B. Ebert declared it justifiable.
“Anybody who breaks into a home armed, particularly with his history, I think, is asking to be killed,” Ebert said.
In addition to being represented by a Marine lawyer, Ross, 22, is getting advice from a civilian lawyer who is counsel for the National Rifle Assn.
The NRA has argued that the case shows that a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases is a bad idea. Ross bought her weapon, a .380 semiautomatic handgun, just three days before Goree broke into her apartment.
“I simply do not understand how this ever even got to the charging stage,” said NRA lawyer Michael Patrick Murray, a retired Marine colonel.
Murray theorized that the basis for the charges against Ross was a 30-page report to the judge advocate general of the Navy, which called Ross “a spider woman” who “lured men into untenable positions and dumped them.”
Murray said the Marine report recommended that Ross be investigated for possible criminal intent.
Maj. Barry N. Moore, public affairs officer for Quantico, said the decision to charge Ross was based on the initial civilian investigation as well as that of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services. He said he was not aware of an additional report to the judge advocate general.
He said Ross’ commanding officer, Col. Bruce Gombar, determined that charges should be brought under military law. “Virginia has broader statutes and case law about killing intruders,” Moore said. “It’s not so clear-cut in military law.”
Goree, 26, “posed a threat” to Ross, his commanding officer had noted before the killing. But Moore said the issue of Goree’s stalking Ross “never came up for us in the investigation.”
On the June night when he was killed, Goree entered Ross’ apartment by prying a sliding glass door off its tracks, then went to Ross’ bedroom, where she was asleep with her 2-year-old daughter and a friend who was lying on the floor, police reports say. Ross fired twice at Goree, killing him with the second bullet, police records say.