Hundreds showed up on the eve of Valentine’s Day to 9213 Hood Road in the Georgetown South neighborhood of Manassas for a message of hope and togetherness after losing three members of the community in a heinous act of violence Thursday night.
Most knew them as ‘Momma Brenda’ and ‘Billy Bathgate,’ who were described simply as: very nice people.
On Sunday evening, friends, family, neighbors and members of the community held a candlelight vigil to honor and remember the lives of 56-year-old Brenda Ashcraft and her, son 37-year-old William (Billy) Ashcraft.
The very place where just three nights prior the two had lost their lives and two more suffered injuries at the hands of a gun and machete-yielding illegal alien from El Salvador was filled with a sense of community and support last night as hundreds gathered and balloons, flowers and messages of love and appreciation graced the fence line of the home.
Even after someone in the crowd brought to light the illegal status of accused killer 37-year-old Jose Oswaldo Reyes-Alfaro, also of 9213 Hood Rd., their cries were quickly hushed with a message of unity, not hatred.
Because Brenda was about being happy and helping others, said a man in the crowd.
Brenda Ashcraft was described as a kind person who would take a friend to the hospital even if she didn’t have gas in her car. She was very concerned for the community and the people in it.
Tiffanie Moess was at the vigil and said she knew the victims through her boyfriend who had grown up with the family.
“She was a good woman,” Moess said, “She would open her house to anyone.”
One young man who did not wish to be identified said Ms. Brenda would often cook meals for him and wash his clothes.
Members of the community, including the youth group from Grace United Methodist Church, Rev. Robert C. Cilinski of All Saints Catholic Church, a teacher from Baldwin Elementary and Manassas City Councilmember Steve Randolph spoke out in honor of the lives lost at the event.
We need people like Brenda to bring about unity in the community, Council member Randolph said.
Suspect Jose Reyes-Alfaro was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder the same night of the attacks that also claimed the life of 48-year-old Julio Cesar Ulloa and wounded three females, including a 77-year-old woman, 35-year-old mother and her 15-year-old daughter.
Reyes-Alfaro was ordered deported back in 2002 after going before a judge in 2001 for being in the U.S. illegally. Still, after two run ins with law enforcement in 2004 and 2008, he remained in the U.S.
Reyes-Alfaro was arrested in Manassas for misdemeanor assault back in March of 2004. He was later found guilty of the charge, the Post reported, and given a 90-day jail sentence, with all the time suspended.
Reyes-Alfaro was also charged with drinking in public in January of 2008, according to the Post.
When asked how Reyes-Alfaro managed to fly under the radar for so long, Manassas City Chief Doug Keen said at a press conference Friday that falls into the hands of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and its ability to update information in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to be ran against possible suspects at a local level.
In response to the triple murders in Manassas, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart said, "Congress needs to provide ICE and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] with the resources they need to protect our citizens from criminal illegal aliens."
"Our community has already lost too many people to these felons that have no right to be here in the first place and we should not have to lose anymore," Stewart said.
“When this is over, we are going to Washington to get the immigration laws in this country changed,” Brenda Ashcraft’s niece said at the end of the vigil.
Editor's Note: It was originally reported that Ms. Moess' boyfriend had lived in the Ashcrafts' home. Please note, this has since been changed, as the boyfriend never lived in the home.