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Guilty Plea in Handyman’s Death

Second person convicted in May 2010 Centreville homicide.

Nothing will restore Jose Cardona to life or return him to his family. But his loved ones will at least have a measure of justice now that the second of the three men involved in his death has been convicted.

In June, Reynard Prather was sentenced to 30 years in prison. And last Friday, Dec. 7, in federal court, Tasheik Ashanti Champean, 46, of Suitland, Md., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and use of a firearm in a crime of violence causing death.

Cardona, 39, was a married father of two who lived in Manassas Park and worked as a handyman and gardener. His employer owned several check-cashing stores in Northern Virginia, and the conspirators believed he kept cash from those stores in his 9,000-square-foot mansion on Compton Road. So they planned to rob him at gunpoint and flee with the money.

The plea agreement and other court records state that, on May 17, 2010, Prather and Champean drove from Prince George’s County, Md., to a shopping center in Virginia. During the drive, authorities say, Champean enlisted Prather’s help in the plan to rob the homeowner.

According to Champean’s May 24 indictment, he also “gave Prather a duffel bag containing a loaded, semiautomatic pistol.” And Prather knew Champean was also armed with a semiautomatic pistol. A third co-conspirator then picked up both of them at the shopping center and dropped them off in the vicinity of their target’s residence.

The two, armed men then walked to the Centreville house and saw the homeowner leave. He left one of the garage doors open, so the intruders entered the garage to wait for him to return. According to court documents, Champean told Prather “his role in the robbery was to restrain [the homeowner’s] younger son upstairs in the residence, and he would take care of [the homeowner] upon his return.”

But around 10 a.m., before the homeowner got back, the intruders were discovered by Cardona and one of the sons.

“The four paired off in a struggle: Prather and the son and Champean and Cardona,” the documents state. “While so involved, Prather heard a shot fired and saw Cardona lying dead on the driveway in front of the garage.” Within minutes, he and Champean fled on foot through a wooded area next to the home.

Cardona’s autopsy revealed that a 9-mm bullet passed through his left hand into his head. Authorities said a magazine containing seven live rounds of .45-caliber ammunition was found on the driveway near where Cardona was shot.

In an Oct. 18, 2011 affidavit, Fairfax County police homicide Det. Stephen Needels, wrote that, according to the homeowner’s son, “At one point, Cardona gained possession of the handgun carried by the man he was struggling with. Moments later, however, he was fatally shot by one of the two intruders.”

Prather was arrested Oct. 25, 2011. On Feb. 22, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and using a firearm in the commission of that crime. He returned to court June 1 and, at that time, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony J. Trenga sentenced him to 30 years behind bars.

Champean — also known as Ashanti Champean and Douglas A. Howell — is scheduled for sentencing March 1, 2013; he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Fairfax County police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael

Rich and Zachary Terwilliger are the prosecutors.

Police still want to arrest the other suspect, though. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Crime solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org, text “TIP187” plus a message to CRIMES/274637 or call police at 703-691-2131.