WASHINGTON - There has been a stunning turn of events in the capital murder case of Justin Wolfe, a Prince William County man sentenced to death in 2002 for ordering the murder of a drug dealer he owed money.
Wolfe maintained his innocence until this week when he confessed in a handwritten letter and pleaded guilty in court.
Wolfe was facing a retrial in his case and another possible death sentence when he notified the special prosecutor that he was willing to admit his role in the murder of Danny Petrole, a drug dealer he owed more than $60,000.
Wolfe's case has taken many twists and turns over the years and it was dismissed by a federal judge at one point.
But in a four-page letter, Wolfe has admitted the charges against him are true.
The allegations against Wolfe were so disturbing and so unusual that his trial was televised and made national news 15 years ago.
The prosecutor went for the death penalty after alleging Wolfe conspired with another man to have Petrole killed over a large drug debt.
In the handwritten confession released on Wednesday by prosecutors, Wolfe wrote, "By early 2001 I had fallen behind and owed Danny a lot of money.”
Wolfe goes on to say, “The first time Owen (Barber) and I talked about this we only discussed robbing Danny ... Eventually we both agreed that it would be necessary to kill Danny because he was probably going to resist the robbery and figure out who did it and have to get revenge."
Barber is an associate of Wolfe who testified at Wolfe’s trial that he was the triggerman in the murder.
After laying out the facts, Wolfe then wrote, "I am responsible for Danny's death even though I didn't pull the trigger ... I want you to know the truth and that is why I am writing this. I am sorry about what I did to your son.”
Back in January 2013, Wolfe's mother and others protested outside a fundraiser for then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli demanding that Wolfe be released from prison.
The case has taken many twists and turns with Barber changing his story several times and a federal judge reversing Wolfe's conviction over alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
A special prosecutor was pursuing the death penalty again when Wolfe decided to confess and plea.
Wolfe will be sentenced in July and could receive anywhere from 29 to 41 years in prison. He has already served 15 years.
Barber is still behind bars currently serving a sentence of 38 years.
The special prosecutor, Ray Morrogh, said Wolfe's attorney approached him about a plea, and after speaking with Petrole’s family, they all agreed.