- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A drug dealer who 14 years ago fatally stabbed a young mother 82 times and left the bloody body in a bathtub to be found by her 1-year-old daughter was sentenced to death yesterday by a federal jury.

The death sentence for Thomas Morocco Hager, 34, of the District, is the first in Alexandria’s U.S. District Court since the federal death penalty was reinstated almost 20 years ago. Even al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui was spared a death penalty by an Alexandria jury in 2006 and sentenced instead to life in prison.

The Hager jury deliberated for more than two days before reaching its verdict yesterday afternoon.

The jury earlier convicted Hager on drug-related murder charges for the 1993 stabbing death of Barbara White, 19, who was found bound and gagged in the bathtub of her Fairfax County apartment.

Miss White’s daughter was not physically harmed but found her mother in the bathtub and left tiny, bloodstained footprints throughout the apartment.

Prosecutors said Hager killed Miss White because she had learned the location of a safe house where he was staying.

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Hager, who was already in prison when he was charged with Miss White’s death in 2005, was responsible for four other killings in the mid-1990s.

Prosecutor Steven Mellin told the jury Hager was a remorseless killer who told his cohorts, “I could get the death penalty for this,” as he held Miss White’s body under the water.

Two men who were with Hager were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Both testified against Hager at his trial.

Miss White’s sister, who cared for the baby girl after Barbara White’s death, testified that the girl required therapy growing up after learning of her mother’s death. After the murder, the girl developed an intense fear of baths, screaming every time she was put in the tub.

“I wish I could have done more to help her, but I was just a baby,” the daughter wrote in a note that was read during trial. “I know that in heaven she understands that.”

Defense lawyers had urged the jury to take Hager’s difficult upbringing into account. Hager grew up in a poor neighborhood in Southeast that had been devastated during the crack epidemic. Both parents were chronic drug addicts who neglected and abused their children.

Hager’s attorney, John Kiyonaga, said he was saddened by the verdict and will pursue an appeal.

Hager is the second person sentenced to death this year in Virginia by a federal jury. A jury in Abingdon, in the Western District of Virginia, sentenced Carlos Caro, a prison inmate, to death for strangling his cellmate with a bath towel after he complained that Caro has stolen his breakfast.

More than 50 prisoners sit on death row after sentencing in federal court, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Three have been executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, the last in 2003.

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