Virginia mom blasted estranged husband's head off with shotgun, teen son told 911 operator 'entire face is gone'

Prosecutor Susan Parrish said, 'John had been killed with a double-barrel shotgun at close range, so you can imagine, physically, what that had done to his body'

                            Virginia mom blasted estranged husband's head off with shotgun, teen son told 911 operator 'entire face is gone'
(Powhatan County Sheriff's Office)

POWHATAN COUNTY, VIRGINIA: The murder of John Rafter Jr. was a shocking one especially with the bright future, he, his wife Karina and their children were set to have. Karina Rafter had been a single mother while John had become a father to her young daughter and the two children that they had together. However, things went on a downward spiral due to marital problems, alcoholism and murder. 

The murder of Rafter Jr. has been detailed and looked into on Oxygen's show 'Snapped' which airs on Sundays at 6/5c.

John Rafter Jr. 

John's stepdaughter Maja Parrish spoke on the documentary and described him as "very good at math, very good with numbers. He just understood computers very well." In 2001, he met his wife Karina Rafter then Lewelt via another friend, and the two started dating. He took in Karina's daughter and it "felt like things were finally complete", Maja added. "When he came around, it was like the family clicked into place."

The two dated for many months and when Karina got pregnant, they decided to get married. They had a son in 2003 and then a daughter a year later. Over the years, John's job got very hectic and the two divorced in 2006 though they quickly reconciled. 

They remarried in 2014 by which time the younger children had reached middle school and Maja was engaged and had moved out. By 2016, the couple decided it wasn't working out and John ended up filing for divorce. He believed he was making the correct decision as Karina struggled with alcoholism. 

However, John did not live long enough to see the divorce finalized. 

The Murder scene

December 9, 2016, was the day when John's body was discovered by the couple's son, 13, who called 911. First responders who had arrived at the scene found John dead, WWBT reports. The teen said that his father had not woken him up for school. The teenager then went into his father's bedroom and soon found out why. While speaking to the 911 operator, the teen had said, "I come into the room, and there’s blood everywhere … His entire face is gone. I don’t think he is alive."

Prosecutor Susan Parrish shared, "There was blood and body spatter on the walls, and there was a shotgun that was on the bed. John had been killed with a double-barrel shotgun at close range, so you can imagine, physically, what that had done to his body."

Detectives had also found a hatchet underneath his pillow which led to them wondering whether he had been preparing for some sort of an attack. John's son said that he had last seen his father at 11 pm the previous night and was woken up by a loud bang in the morning but had gone back to sleep. When the detectives had asked about the shotgun lying on the bed, the teenager had told them that his father never kept a gun in the house.

Karina Rafter

The police also questioned Karina who said that John had a history of mental health issues and had also been suicidal in the past. She added that in 2015, his therapist had told her to remove their heirloom shotgun from the home and she had taken it to her parents' house closeby. She said that John had asked her for the gun a month before he was found dead. While she admitted that the two were getting divorced, she insisted that their breakup was amicable. When asked about the hatchet John had kept in the bed, she had no explanation and said, "There’s no time that I have attacked or threatened John in the entire year."

Not everyone believed her, including Maja who revealed, "I just knew that it wasn’t a suicide. First of all, he was happy. Things were going his way. And second, he would never have left himself there for my brother to find. There was no way he would put his child through that."

Eventually, the medical examiner ruled out suicide altogether. Prosecutor Susan added, "It would have been impossible between the trigger pull and the length of John’s arms for John to inflict those wounds upon himself."

Getting Caught and Sentencing

Detectives found a bag of shells (ammunition) that Karina had bought and left in John's house. They found that her fingerprints were the only ones on it. Prosecutor Matthew Ackley shared, "This tells me that there’s nobody else who handled that bag. If this in fact had been a suicide or if someone else had taken shells and loaded that shotgun, I would expect their fingerprints to be on there as well."

John's friends added how he had been fearing for his life and had told them he was sleeping with an axe.

Karina's defense team had even tried to suggest that the teenage son was the killer. Ackley shared, "We found absolutely no corroboration that would lead us to believe that he was involved in this murder. There’s only one person who had the motive, the means, and the opportunity to commit the murder, and that was Karina."

She was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and found guilty for both. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for first-degree murder and three years for use of a firearm in the commission of the murder.

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