- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

JARRATT, Va. Derek R. Barnabei was executed last night for the rape and murder of a college girl he dated. Hours earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to grant a stay in the case.
Barnabei, 33, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center for the 1993 slaying of Sarah J. Wisnosky, a 17-year-old Old Dominion University freshman from Lynchburg. He was pronounced dead at 9:05 p.m.
"I am truly innocent of this crime," Barnabei said in a final statement. "Eventually, the truth will come out." Afterward, he told his mother and brother he loved them, cited a passage from the Bible and thanked several people who had taken an interest in his case.
Sarah was last seen alive in Barnabei's room in a house he shared with other young men in Norfolk. Her nude and beaten body was found two days later floating in the Lafayette River.
During the trial, prosecutors characterized Barnabei as a "womanizer" and a "big shot" who had awed a "small-town girl" with his smooth talking and fabricated tales. He claimed to be a Rutgers University architectural engineering graduate and fraternity member who had come to the area to work for his fathers firm.
Dr. Faruk B. Presswalla, deputy chief medical examiner, testified that Sarah suffered internal injuries caused by the rape.
She also had been struck at least 10 times with a blunt object, possibly a ball-peen hammer, on the right side of her face and head. Marks on her neck led Dr. Presswalla to believe that she had been strangled.
Barnabei repeatedly said he was innocent. The case was followed closely in Italy because Barnabei is Italian-American and the European country opposes the death penalty.
"I don't want to die and it's unjust that I die. If this is what God wants, then so be it. I accept it. Who am I to question the ultimate design?" he said in an interview Wednesday.
Barnabei met with his spiritual adviser, the Rev. Bob West, for about 90 minutes yesterday. Mr. West said the condemned man was "ready to die."
"He's at peace, in great spirits," Mr. West said.
Craig Barnabei described his brother as "remarkably calm and at peace with himself."
At a final family meeting at the prison, Barnabei told his brother and mother, Jane, to "to go on with our lives and fight," Craig Barnabei said.
"I hope this is not for nothing," Craig Barnabei quoted his brother as saying. "I hope people take a hard look at my case."
Barnabei wanted his body to be cremated, but his mother talked him out of it, his brother said.
Barnabei's lawyer filed a clemency petition with Gov. James S. Gilmore III, even though the governor said Monday that he would not grant clemency because new DNA testing confirmed Barnabei was guilty.
"Serious doubts still surround this case," lawyer Seth A. Tucker said in the petition filed Wednesday. He argued that Barnabei should not be executed while a state police investigation continues into a temporary disappearance of evidence from the Norfolk Circuit Court clerk's office.
"It would do a disservice not only to Derek Barnabei, but also to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia to continue with an execution when there is still no conclusion as to who moved the evidence, what they did with it, and why," Mr. Tucker wrote.
Mr. Gilmore said yesterday that he is sure nobody tampered with the evidence that was tested Sarah's fingernail clippings, which were in a sealed envelope that had not been opened.
He also said plenty of other evidence was considered at trial and in Barnabei's appeals.
"We can't retry cases in the governor's office," Mr. Gilmore told reporters.
The Supreme Court's denial of two stay requests followed rulings against Barnabei by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond. The courts dismissed defense arguments that the state tampered with evidence and that more DNA testing should be done because some evidence was missing at the clerk's office from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.
Barnabei had asked for DNA tests on some of that evidence genetic material on Sarah's fingernail clippings in effort to prove someone else committed the crime. Instead, the DNA matched Barnabei's.
When police found Sarah's body, their only clues were a high school ring with her initials, a brown moccasin found on the side of the river bank and a bloodstained towel.
Police later found a matching moccasin on the side porch of Barnabei's home on West 48th Street. In his bedroom, DNA testing revealed Sarah's bloodstains on the walls, the headboard of Barnabeis waterbed and a surfboard he was storing for a friend.
Barnabei fled a few hours before Sarah's body was found after borrowing $100 each from two fraternity members. Police arrested him three months later in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where they said he was using a false name.
Death-penalty opponents said Barnabei was being put to death for political gain and that executions of criminals are themselves crimes.
"This is a human sacrifice, not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of political gain," said Oliviero Toscani of New York, an Italian citizen who has written extensively against the death penalty in Talk magazine. "Whoever has more condemned inmates has more votes."
About 25 protesters carrying candles waited outside the Greensville Correctional Center. One carried a sign that said, "Derek, we are with you."
Vigils were held around the state last night as the execution hour approached.

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