Update: Jury Recommends Life Sentence in 1988 Murder Case

After hearing five days of testimony and deliberating for two days, a Loudoun Circuit court jury this morning announced guilty verdicts in a 30-year-old murder case.

The jury found Timothy W. Warnick, 58, guilty of first-degree murder and robbery in the 1988 death of Henry E. “Ricky” Ryan.

Jurors recommended the maximum sentence allowed under Virginia law for the murder conviction, a class 2 felony—life in prison and a $100,000 fine. They also recommended a  five-year sentence on the robbery charge. The final sentencing by Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr. is expected in about three months.

Warnick was one of the last people seen with Ryan the night of his death. The two went on a beer run with a third, unknown man, amid a night of partying near the Shenandoah River in West Virginia. The prosecution’s case focused on confessions by Warnick to his son and his ex-girlfriend, who both testified in the case. Prosecutors also pointed to a pill bottle with Warnick’s name on it that was found in Ryan’s hand when his body was recovered on March 14, 1989, in Loudoun County.

The defense argued that the witnesses’ stories were inconsistent and had changed over the years. Their case also suggested that the pill bottle had been placed in Ryan’s hand by that third unknown man to try to frame Warnick.

[Read more about the trial here.]

Barbara Ott, one of Ryan’s sisters, felt like finding justice for her brother was partly her doing. She said she called investigators at least twice a year—on the anniversary of his death and on his birthday—to urge them to keep looking for his killer.

“I knew there something, some way to convict who did this,” Ott said.

She gathered with several other family members on the courthouse lawn after the jury announced its verdict today.

“Honestly, we’re going out and celebrating for Ricky. Mom and dad weren’t here to see it and I know they’re looking down and they have Ricky in their arms,” Ott said. She added: “We still may not have closure, but we have justice.”
Reporter Renss Greene contributed to this story.
The family of Henry E. “Ricky” Ryan wears matching shirts reading “Team Ricky” in a show of unity at Timothy W. Warnick’s trial for murder and robbery. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]

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