COLUMBIA -- A 36-year-old man accused in the stabbing deaths of his wife and three of her children told South Carolina authorities Friday he is innocent and should not be extradited to Virginia.
John Moses Ragin said he should be freed, not sent back to Newport News, Va., where he faces four counts of first-degree murder, four counts of unlawful stabbing and felony arson.
Authorities accuse Ragin of killing his wife, Crystal, and her children, 15-year-old Sierra, 10-year-old Rasheed and 6-year-old Lakwan, who were found dead in their burned Newport News apartment Aug. 19. Crystal Ragin was in the military and assigned to Fort Eustis.
Autopsies determined the victims died of stab wounds, and Sierra Burton had contributing burns around the time she died, Glenn McBride of Virginia's medical examiner system said Friday.
According to investigators, Ragin was arrested after calling detectives to say he was in Manning. The couple's 5-year-old son was left at a relative's house.
The hearing appeared routine at the outset, as assistant attorney general Jared Libet noted it had nothing to do with Ragin's guilt or innocence, and Ragin did not dispute his identity. "As far as I know, I'm the person they're looking for," he said.
Over much of the next hour, Ragin peppered Libet with questions about legal definitions, the authenticity of the documents and why Virginia officers weren't present. Told he was getting off track, Ragin responded, "This is my life."
Ragin, shackled and clad in an orange jumpsuit, then offered a glimpse at his defense. He argued he should not have been arrested as a fugitive at 3 a.m. Aug. 20 because he was already in South Carolina when arrest warrants were signed.
"Did I flee to South Carolina or was I already in South Carolina?" said Ragin, seated with two correction officers on either side of him, as Department of Public Safety and SWAT Team officers stood in the back.
Ragin said witnesses can affirm he was at Clarendon Memorial Hospital at 7 a.m. Aug. 19 after his son had slammed Ragin's hand in the door. He argued he couldn't kill his family Aug. 19 if he was in South Carolina, and did not have time before his arrest to drive to Virginia and back.
He read arrest warrants that said the family was killed Aug. 18 or 19, when the bodies were found, but said that too raised questions about phone record evidence indicating he was in the area when the crime occurred.
"The reason why I do not want to return to Virginia is because I'm from South Carolina," he said. "I've already lost four people out of my family. I only have one son left. Am I supposed to just let them take me away from him, too? A lot of people say because I don't want to go back to Virginia, I'm guilty. Everybody that loves me stays in South Carolina. Everybody who can help me legally and supports me is in South Carolina."
The attorney general's office expects to send a recommendation to Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday on whether to extradite Ragin, Plowden said.