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Wolfe to Stay in Jail During Second Trial in Petrole Murder

A Prince William judge declined to permit house arrest with mother in Chantilly.

Wolfe to remain in prison during second murder trial. Prince William sets up this barricade whenever Wolfe is in court. Credit: Dusty Smith
Wolfe to remain in prison during second murder trial. Prince William sets up this barricade whenever Wolfe is in court. Credit: Dusty Smith

Facing a second trial for murder and drug distribution, Justin Michael Wolfe, 32, will remain in the Prince William County Adult Detention Center throughout the proceeding after a judge denied his request for bail.

Wolfe is charged in the 2001 Bristow murder of Daniel Robert Petrole Jr., who attended Centreville High School. Federal courts threw out a 2002 conviction for murder for hire in the case, but allowed prosecutors to retry him.

In Prince William Circuit Court Wednesday, Judge Mary Grace O’Brien declined to free Wolfe on bond, citing potential life in prison or death penalty sentences for Wolfe.

“The risk of flight is something in this case I cannot overcome,” she said.

After the hearing, Wolfe’s teary-eyed mother, Terri Steinberg, was clearly disappointed, but said she had prepared herself. The bond request called for Wolfe to stay at his mother's home in Chantilly, with an ankle bracelet.

“Set your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed,” Steinberg said outside the courtroom. She's faced disappointment before. About a year ago, Wolfe was expected to be released, only to have that order reversed at the 11th hour.

In front of the courthouse, she told a gaggle of reporters, “I will always hope. They can’t take that away from me.”

Also present in the courtroom were Petrole’s father and brother.

Owen Merton Barber IV, the admitted triggerman in the case, testified in federal court in 2010 that Wolfe had nothing to do with the murder. Wolfe was not present during the murder. Since being confronted in 2012 by the original prosecutors and an investigator in the case, Barber has asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege in the case, at least out of concern of facing additional punishment. Those same prosecutors were rebuked for their conduct in the case by a federal judge in 2011.

The new first degree and capital murder charges against Wolfe require the Commonwealth to show the murder was related to a “continuing criminal enterprise” and that Wolfe was a key player. 

Besides facing the death penalty for the murder, Wolfe also faces a conspiracy drug distribution charge that carries a sentence of up to life in prison. Others charged in the drug ring, including at least three people above Wolfe, served three-year sentences or less. Prosecutors pointed out that those people were charged by federal prosecutors following a DEA task force investigation.

The files from that investigation, which might have indicated Wolfe's involvement in the ring or held information beneficial to Wolfe, were destroyed, according to a former task force agent who testified Wednesday. The agent said about three file drawers full of information were purged.

In fighting for the bond release, Wolfe’s attorneys said prosecutors would not be able to make their case, but O’Brien said such considerations were for a trial jury, not a bond hearing.

Wolfe attorneys also made the case that Wolfe had behaved well in prison, initially turned himself in when charged and had a plane ticket to return to the area after going Florida in the days after the murder, but O’Brien she could not allow bond for someone faces such serious sentences.

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