Killer of elderly couple gets life in prison
John Wesley Jeffries, 60
Updated: 2:15 p.m., 10/15/13
The man who killed an elderly husband and wife in their home near The Plains will spend the rest of his life in jail.
John Wesley Jeffries, 60, of Fredericksburg, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Fauquier County Circuit Court to two counts of capital murder, two counts of abduction, and two counts of strangulation of Nelson and Ethel Slack.
As part of the plea agreement, Jeffries avoids the death penalty for his capital charges.
He will serve two life sentences for the murders, plus another 165 years of consecutive jail time for the other charges.
The life sentences are crucial to keep Jeffries in jail, said Fauquier Commonwealth's Attorney James Fisher. Virginia has “geriatric parole,” where an offender who reaches age 60 is eligible for parole after serving a certain number of years. Without the life sentences from capital charges, Jeffries would have been eligible for parole at age 65, Fisher said.
“One major consideration was the feelings of the surviving family members about justice as they see it,” Fisher said. “It was crucial to them to get finality and to avoid a lengthy trial, but also to assure that the defendant lives the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole, this agreement accomplished that.”
Jeffries, entering the court in a green prisoner's jumpsuit, gave his pleas to Judge Jeffrey Parker.
In a proffer statement of accusation, Fisher recounted the investigation that led to Jeffries's capture.
On Feb. 24, Fauquier sheriff's deputies discovered Nelson Slack, 80, and his wife Ethel Slack, 74, slain in their home in the 7200 block of Bunker Hill Road.
The deputies forced their way into the home after concerned family members of the Slacks said they had not seen Nelson and Ethel in a couple days.
They found the husband and wife dead on the floor, tied up with rope and with terrycloth towels stuffed into their mouths. Investigators found several stab wounds on Nelson's neck and head. Ethel had blunt force trauma to her arms and head.
A day before their discovery, deputies came to Bunker Hill Road to investigate an unfamiliar car that had been parked on a property near the home of the Slacks.
Jeffries had grown up on Bunker Hill Road and knew the Slacks for many years, doing odd jobs for them in the past, Fisher said.
One neighbor told deputies that Jeffries had stopped by to ask for a gun, money and a place to sleep at night.
On Feb. 27, shortly after deputies declared Jeffries as a suspect, Fredericksburg police arrested Jeffries at a home in the 200 block of Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg, where he was with “a known associate.”
After Jefffries's arrest, investigators confirmed Ethel's DNA in blood staining the pants Jeffries wore at the time of his arrest. They also found the key to the Slacks' car, which Jeffries took, drove to Fredericksburg and then abandoned.
In an interview with Lt. James Hartman of the Fauquier Sheriff's Office, Jeffries said he had been to the house, and that the Slacks owed him money.
Jeffries couldn't recall much, else, Fisher said in his statement, because Jeffries had “used a lot of crack cocaine and drank a lot of liquor” in the time frame of the Slacks' deaths.
Jeffries also alleged that Nelson had molested him as a child, according to Fisher's proffer statement.
Michael Slack, acting as spokesman for the Slack family, praised the Commonwealth's Attorney's office for the plea agreement that guarantees Jeffries will “die in prison for this terrible crime.”
“In major part, we support this resolution because it spares our family from having to go through a lengthy and painful trial,” Slack said in a written statement.
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