Offbeat Man sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1981 killing of Va. schoolteacher

20:22  08 july  2018
20:22  08 july  2018 Source:   dailypress.com

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Olivia Christian, 32, was found strangled and beaten to death in her Hampton apartment on Sept. 4, 1981. More than 36 years later, Ruben Moore, 68, right, was found guilty of killing her. He was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years behind bars.© Family photo of Christian and Hampton Police photo of Moore Olivia Christian, 32, was found strangled and beaten to death in her Hampton apartment on Sept. 4, 1981. More than 36 years later, Ruben Moore, 68, right, was found guilty of killing her. He was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years behind bars. A man who was found guilty earlier this year of killing a Hampton, Virginia schoolteacher nearly 37 years ago was sentenced this week to 40 years behind bars.

In March, a Hampton Circuit Court jury found Ruben Edward Moore, 68, guilty of second-degree murder in the 1981 strangling and beating death of 32-year-old Olivia Christian, a well-liked teacher at Captain John Smith Elementary School.

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The jury had recommended the 40-year sentence, the maximum penalty under law for second-degree murder.

At the formal sentencing hearing Tuesday, Phillip Figura, the prosecutor with the Virginia attorney general’s office who handled the case, sought to play for the judge a song that a friend of Christian’s had written about her.

It was a blues song “with a guitar and someone singing about Olivia,” said Moore’s lawyer, J. Robert “Bob” Harris III. The songwriter, David Motley — who knew Christian from a local snow ski club — drove about four hours from the Roanoke area for the hearing.

But Harris said that “rather than go through that,” Moore waived his right to a full-blown sentencing hearing, including witnesses from either side and an in-depth report from the probation office. Instead, the lawyer asked a judge to simply impose the sentence the jury had previously recommended in March.

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“We didn’t want to listen to the song,” Harris explained.

Circuit Court Judge William H. Shaw III, the retired Gloucester judge sitting on the case, agreed to that request, going straight into the imposition of the jury’s recommendation.

“The judge said he thought the jury’s sentence was appropriate, and that he would not change it,” Harris said. “So it took five minutes. No one testified. The song was admitted into evidence, but it wasn’t played.”

Getting the judge to cut the jury’s recommendation was a high hurdle anyway, Harris said. Under law, judges in Virginia are not allowed to add time to a jury’s recommended sentence. Though they are allowed to reduce the time, it’s rare for them to do that.

Figura, the chief prosecutor for the AG’s major crimes and emerging threat unit, said in a statement Friday that sentencing is an “opportunity for the family and friends of a victim to share the person who was taken from them.”

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“Even though we weren’t able to present Mr. Motley and his song at the hearing, we of course respect the court’s decision and its imposition of the jury’s recommended sentence, which we believe to be just,” Figura said.

It was nearly 37 years ago — on Sept. 4, 1981 — that Christian was found dead in her apartment on Ivy Home Road in Hampton.

Moore was arrested in 2015 after Hampton Police Detective Randy Mayer was able to connect him to Christian’s case. The detective said he was led to Moore after discovering parallels between Christian’s death and another crime that Moore was arrested in nine months after the 1981 killing.

At the March trial, a witness said Moore, who was then 31, pulled into Christian's apartment complex “in a distinctive aqua green 1965 Ford Galaxy,” the AG’s office said.

A witness said that Christian was outside walking her cat at the rear of the apartment complex around the time that Moore apparently slipped inside her unlocked apartment.

The prosecution’s theory is that Moore was lying in wait for Christian when she returned. Once she was inside, prosecutors said, Moore bashed Christian’s head with an alarm clock, wrapped its cord around her neck, and attempted to sexually assault her, the AG’s office said. Moore was seen driving away “in the same distinctive car” half an hour later, the AG’s office said.

40 years for man convicted of 1981 slaying of schoolteacher

  40 years for man convicted of 1981 slaying of schoolteacher A 68-year-old Virginia man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the decades-old killing of a Hampton Roads schoolteacher. The Daily Press reports a jury convicted Ruben Moore earlier this year for the 1981 strangling and beating death of 32-year-old Olivia Christian, a teacher at Captain John Smith Elementary School. At a sentencing hearing Friday in Hampton, a judge imposed the 40-year term recommended by the jury. Moore's lawyer says he believes his client is innocent and will appeal. Moore was arrested in 2015.

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Following two days of trial, the jury of 10 women and two men had the option of either acquitting Moore or finding him guilty of first-degree or second-degree murder. They chose second-degree murder, then recommended the 40-year max sentence for that crime.

"It has taken more than 35 years, but justice has been done," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement in March. "This conviction is the culmination of years of work by diligent investigators and prosecutors who never gave up on finding justice for Ms. Christian, her friends and family.”

“I think the jury really sent a clear message,” recently retired Hampton police detective Mayer said Friday, adding that he was “more emotional” with the 40-year sentence than with the second-degree murder conviction.

Harris said that Moore will be appealing the guilty verdict, with the appeal to be handled by attorney Charles Haden. “I do not believe he did it,” Harris said.

Peter Dujardin can be reached by phone at 757-247-4749 or by email at pdujardin@dailypress.com

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