“Mr. Reed, while not physically present at the murder, put this tragic and terrifying sequence of events in motion.”
— Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
Centreville Jose Cardona wasn’t famous and didn’t hold an impressive, white-collar job. He worked as a handyman and gardener for a wealthy businessman in Centreville.
But that didn’t make his life any less important than any other human being’s. And when the time came, he more than proved his value as a person by giving up his own life to protect that of his employer’s son.
Cardona, 39, was killed by armed intruders three years ago. And although it took awhile to arrest those responsible and bring them to justice, it finally happened. The two men most-directly culpable each received 30-year prison sentences; and last Friday, July 19, in federal court, a third person, Stacy Lorenzo Reed, received 22 years and six months behind bars.
“Nothing can bring back the life that was taken during this horrific crime,” said Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, after Friday’s sentencing. “But today’s sentence sends a clear message that there are severe consequences for all those who conspire to commit crimes.”
Cardona was a married father of two who lived in Manassas Park and sent money home to his family in Guatemala. His employer owned nine check-cashing stores in Northern Virginia.
According to court documents, Reed obtained information that the employer kept substantial amounts of cash proceeds from that business inside his 9,000-square-foot mansion on Compton Road. So he took Tasheik Champean, 46, of Suitland, Md., to the home to scope out the property for a future robbery. Doing so, said authorities, set the wheels in motion for the tragedy that followed.
On May 17, 2010, Reynard Prather, 23, of Oxon Hill, Md., and Champean, drove from Prince George’s County, Md., to a strip mall in Virginia. During the drive, authorities said, Champean promised Prather $50,000 if he’d help rob the homeowner.
According to court documents and a Dec. 10, 2012 affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria — and written by Fairfax County Police Det. Stephen Needels — Champean was armed with a loaded, semiautomatic pistol and gave Prather a duffel bag containing one for him, too.
“Both prior to and following his pleas of guilty, Prather identified Reed as one of two persons with whom he and Champean met in a strip mall [that] morning,” wrote Needels. “According to Prather, Reed drove Champean and him to the vicinity of the [home] and dropped them off.”
The two, armed men walked to the house and saw the homeowner leave. They then entered through an open garage door to await his return. According to court documents, Champean instructed Prather to restrain the homeowner’s younger son upstairs in the residence and he’d “take care of [the homeowner] upon his return.”
But around 10 a.m., before he got back, Cardona and one of the sons discovered the two intruders.
“The four paired off in a struggle: Prather and the son and Champean and Cardona,” the documents stated. “While so involved, Prather heard a shot fired and saw Cardona lying dead on the driveway in front of the garage.” However, Prather later admitted the fatal bullet was fired from his weapon, not Champean’s.
Cardona’s autopsy revealed a 9-mm bullet passed through his left hand into his head. And police retrieved a magazine containing seven live rounds of .45-caliber ammunition from the driveway near where he was shot.
After the shooting, the assailants fled on foot through a wooded area next to the home. Then, according to the prosecution, an as-yet unnamed person picked them up in a vehicle and delivered them to Reed, who drove them back to Maryland. An investigation followed, but it wasn’t until 17 months later that Prather was arrested, on Oct. 25, 2011.
On Feb. 22, 2012 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. And on June 1, 2012, Judge Anthony Trenga sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
Champean pleaded guilty Dec. 7, 2012 in federal court to conspiracy to commit robbery and use of a firearm in a crime of violence causing death. And on April 12 of this year, he was also sentenced by Trenga to three decades in a federal penitentiary.
Police apprehended Reed, then 43, of Manassas, on Dec. 12, 2012. A Metrobus driver, he was arrested at the end of his route. Authorities charged him with conspiracy to commit robbery and aiding and abetting the discharge of a firearm during or in relation to a crime of violence.
Initially scheduled for a June 12 jury trial, he instead pleaded guilty on April 18. Reed returned to U.S. District Court in Alexandria last Friday and, at that time, Trenga sentenced him to 22-and-one-half years in prison, followed by three years supervised release.
This case was investigated by the Fairfax County Police Department’s Homicide Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael E. Rich and Zachary Terwilliger were the prosecutors.
“Mr. Reed, while not physically present at the murder, put this tragic and terrifying sequence of events in motion,” said MacBride. “He will now have over 20 years in federal prison to contemplate his greed-fueled involvement in the crime.”