In an episode of the recent Netflix hit series “Mind Hunter,” two FBI agents conducted research on serial killers in the 1970s. In a scene in the fourth episode of the series, the agents visited the State Penitentiary in Richmond to interview Montie Rissel.
In 1977 Rissell was charged with the murder of five women in Northern Virginia. He confessed to the crimes in September 1977 after being suspected by police. Rissell’s case was unusual mainly because he was so young---he was 18-years-old when he was charged for the murders and already had an extensive criminal history including robbery and rape charges.
One of the detectives on the case, John W. Turner, lived in the same Alexandria neighborhood where some of the victims' bodies were recovered. Det. Turner had crossed paths with Rissell in 1973 when the youth tried to rob a woman in an elevator with a knife. Because the crime occurred in the same area as the murders in 1976, Turner told the Washington Post that he had suspected Rissell was involved from the start of the investigation.
Rissell lived with his mother and brother at the Saxony Square complex which overlooked the Holmes Run neighborhood in Northern Virginia where he committed the murders. According to neighbors, the family had lived there since 1970 and there had never been any complaints or out of the ordinary situations. “He was a nice guy, I can’t believe it,” a neighbor said in 1977.
Rissell’s first murder was Aura Marina Gabor, 26, who was strangled to death on August 4, 1976. The second slaying, a stabbing, was 22-year-old Ursula Miltenberger and occurred seven months later in March 1977. According to an October 1977 story by the Washington Post, Fairfax County police discussed similarities in the murders of the two women “but reached no definite conclusions.”
The drowned body of a third victim, Gladys R. Bradley, 27, was found a month later in April. Followed by a fourth victim, Jeannette McClelland, 24, who was found with 24 stab wounds. On May 17, the body of Rissell’s fifth and final victim Aletha Byrd, 35, was discovered with multiple stab wounds.
The police enlisted the assistance of a psychiatrist to put together a profile for a suspect before Rissell’s confession and arrest. According to Det. Turner in his interview with the Washington Post, “I looked at the profile and [the psychiatrist] could have stamped Montie Rissell on it.”
During the trial, Rissell’s attorneys requested psychiatric therapy and rehabilitation for their client. The judge, Donald H. Kent, agreed to let the state provide the therapy with the condition that Rissell still received the maximum sentence for each murder. Rissell was charged with multiple life sentences with eligibility for parole following 20 years served. The charges included the abduction, rape and murder of all five women.
In 1995, Rissell began his attempts to get out of prison on parole two years short of his 20-year minimum sentence. The reason for this was that Rissell had earned credits through a program that awarded a five-day credit for every 30 days of good behavior. Rissell was thereafter able to be considered by the Virginia Parole Board every year.
Rissell is currently in his 50s and imprisoned at the Pocahontas State Correctional Center in Tazewell County, Virginia. All of his requests for parole have been denied.