Neuro-witchcraft — “A judge on Thursday appointed two brain experts to evaluate a man facing the death penalty in the slaying of a teenage Muslim girl last year, despite the objections of a prosecutor who derided the requests as “neuro-witchcraft.” Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows agreed to the appointments of a neuropsychologist and neurotoxicologist to evaluate Darwin Martinez-Torres, 23, of Sterling, who faces charges including capital murder and rape in the June killing of Nabra Hassanen of Reston.” [WTOP]
More Metro inspections — New federal inspections find old Metro problems still persist, including several “code black” track conditions. [The Washington Post]
Stateside: On the front lines — Nurses are on the front lines in battling the opioid epidemic. One nurse says most of her patients are homeless. [The Connection]
Photo by Ressa Blair
An event to honor the life of 17-year-old Muslim teen Nabra Hassanen almost a year following her murder will be held Saturday, April 28 at the Reston Community Center.
The event, which will run from 1:30-3:30 p.m., is organized by with Reston community members and the non-profit organization Pious Projects.
During the event, Hassanen’s classmates and teachers will speak and one or two of her friends will sing a song, said Jumana, one of the event’s Pious Projects organizers.
About a year ago, Pious Projects set up an online campaign where the community could raise enough money to build seven wells and a mosque in Hassanen’s name in Mali in Africa.
To honor Hassanen’s life, Pious Projects also made a documentary to commemorate her, which the non-profit will screen at the event.
Jumana, who asked that her last name remain private, said she has found comfort working with Hassanen’s father and helping other families work through similar losses at the Pious Projects.
“I do enjoy basically speaking with the families and trying to guide them through their heartbreak and bring them something positive in the end,” she said..
Two friends of Hassanen, Afnan Abdel and Amina Siddiqui, said they plan to share memories of Hassanen at the event that highlight her personality so more people will know what she was like.
Sibbiqui fondly remembers when she attended a Islamic spring camp with Hassanen and while riding a canoe with Hassanen, she would shake the boat to scare her in a joking way.
“We all just kept joking around with her, and shaking the boat and scaring her and she was just laughing and we were all just having a really fun time,” Sibbiqui said.
Hassanen was a great dancer and danced to lots of silly songs, Siddiqui added. Abdel said she wants to people remember Hassanen as a caring and funny person.
“If you ever felt insecure, she was always there for you to remind you that you’re beautiful,” Siddiqui said. “Even people she doesn’t know.”
Hassanen, a South Lakes High School student, was killed near the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling.
Darwin Martinez-Torres, 22, has been charged with capital murder and rape after police say he followed Hassanen and a group of teenagers at 3:40 a.m. Sunday, June 18 after a Ramadan service at ADAMS.
The group split up, but Martinez-Torres returned with a baseball bat, striking Hassanen and taking her in his car. Hassanen’s body was later found that day in a Sterling pond, police said.
While community members have said Hassanen’s death was fueled by a bias against Muslims, police say Martinez-Torres’ rampage was just an extension of his road rage at the time.
As the one year mark of the tragic slaying of Nabra Hassanen approaches, local students are coming together to remember the South Lakes High School student.
Hassanen, a Muslim, was killed near the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling.
Family and loved ones will gather on Saturday (April 14) — what would have been Hassanen’s 18th birthday — to package “blessing bags” with items like water bottles, deodorant, food and shampoo. Bags will be distributed to the homeless in D.C., organizers said.
Police believe Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, followed a group of teens as they walked and biked back to the mosque at around 3:40 a.m. during Ramadan, the prescribed month of fasting for Muslims.
Torres later caught up with the group in a parking lot, according to police, and struck Hassanen with a baseball bat before abducting her in his car. He then allegedly assaulted Hassanen a second time before dumping her body in a pond next to his apartment complex.
Organizers hope to preserve Hassanen’s love for charity projects and her caring nature through the initiative.
Afnan Abdelmeguid, a 17-year-old West Springfield High School student and event organizer, said Hassanen was like a sister to her. After meeting Hassanen nearly a decade ago, Abdelmeguid recalls the pair quickly became close friends, spending yearly holidays together and taking part in an annual Islamic spring camp.
In her absence, Abdelmeguid wants to keep her giving nature alive. She also hopes it will help her and the local community heal as the one year anniversary of the high-profile case approaches and as Ramadan begins next month.
Other organizers include Abdelmeguid’s cousins, Shatha and Maysoon Ibrahim.
“She was very kind to everyone and was always smiling. She always cared about our problems and was always there to talk to you when you needed someone to talk to,” Abdelmeguid said.
We’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2017 this week. Here’s the final list of our top five stories.
5. The first lawsuit filed regarding Boston Properties’ paid parking system at Reston Town Center in late March had 10,970 views. The suit was initiated by Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive). Paid parking continues to challenge local businesses, according to several tenants. Just this week, Appalachian Spring, one of the first tenants of Reston Town Center, announced plans to shutter its Reston location partly due to limited foot traffic that a business representative believes decreased partly due to paid parking.
4. Continuing a similar theme, Boston Properties’ plans to modify its parking system five months after instituting paid parking drew 11,078 views. The company rescinded the payment requirements for users of RTC parking garages after 5 p.m. and also allow one hour of free garage parking for sessions that begin before 5 p.m.
3. An article about where to watch one of the most anticipated professional fights in history gained 14,374 page views. Undefeated box champion Floyd Mayweather went toe to toe with UFC superstar Conor McGregor.
2. The brutal killing of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was killed as she walked to her mosque after night prayers during the month of fasting gained nationwide attention and sent reverberations locally. Darwin Martin-Torres, a 22-year-old, is accused of raping and sexual assaulting Hassanen. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The article gained 15,575 views.
1. A rundown of where to spot Fourth of July fireworks took the top honors of the year with more than 16,000 page views. Turns out finding places to complete the American tradition was especially popular among readers.
It’s been quite a year and we look forward to bring you more stories in 2018.
Photo courtesy of Rick Collier
The man police say murdered Nabra Hassanen in June will face charges of capital murder and rape, the Associated Press reports. According to the AP, the grand jury ruling against 22-year-old Darwin Martinez-Torres in Fairfax County Circuit Court came down today.
A capital murder charge can be punishable by death. Virginia state code allows prosecutors to pursue a death penalty under certain conditions, including premeditated murder during a rape. The county’s prosecutor indicates that he will seek the death penalty in the case.
Hassanen was part of a large group of teenagers walking and biking on Dranesville Road at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, June 18 after a Ramadan service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. The suspect allegedly approached the group in a car and argued with a teenage boy. The group scattered, but police say Martinez-Torres caught up a short time later armed with a baseball bat. Hassanen was struck and taken in the car. Her body was discovered later that day in a Sterling pond.
Days after Hassanen’s death, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said the possibility of sexual assault during the attack was being investigated. Monday’s grand jury ruling, however, is the first official indication that it is believed a rape was committed.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer was lodged against Martinez-Torres immediately following his arrest. The 22-year-old native of El Salvador was living in Sterling illegally. While rumors circulated that he is a member of the gang MS-13, FCPD has said there is “no credible information” pointing to that.
Police say Martinez-Torres committed the crime as part of an extreme case of road rage. Members of the community, including Hassanen’s friends and family, have suggested the crime was fueled by a bias against Muslims.
A vigil at Lake Anne Plaza in honor of Hassanen, just days after her death, drew thousands of mourners.
A preliminary hearing for Martinez-Torres last week was disrupted when Hassanen’s parents began shouting at the suspect and threatening him. The suspect ultimately waived his right to the hearing, allowing the case to proceed without further delay.
— Mike Murillo (@MikeMurilloWTOP) October 13, 2017
(This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. following the conclusion of the hearing.)
A preliminary hearing in a Fairfax County court Friday afternoon for the suspect in the June murder of Nabra Hassanen was disrupted when her family’s anger boiled over.
The hearing was briefly halted after disruptions and outbursts directed toward the suspect, 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, which included Hassanen’s father shouting “You killed my daughter!” and lunging toward the suspect. Hassanen’s mother also threatened and threw a shoe at the man.
BREAKING: Nabra Hassanen's mom yelled at defendant "I kill you" before throwing shoe. Hearing will resume soon w only family in courtroom.
— justin jouvenal (@jjouvenal) October 13, 2017
Fairfax County deputies rushed into the crowded courtroom to maintain order, while the judge and Torres were ushered out of the room for safety.
At least five people were individually removed from the courtroom, WTOP reporter Mike Murillo reported, for their outbursts. Two, including Hassanen’s father, were forcibly removed by guards. The hundreds in attendance, many of whom were wearing “Justice for Nabra” T-shirts, were then all ordered out of the courtroom. The hearing was moved to a smaller courtroom and made private.
No cameras were allowed in either courtroom.
Torres, who faces a second-degree murder charge, ultimately waived his right to the preliminary hearing. That means the case is cleared to advance to trial.
Those seeking justice for the murder of Nabra Hassanen, whose death rattled the Reston community this summer, will have their first day in court this week.
A preliminary hearing for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s prosecution of murder suspect Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, will be on Friday in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
Judge Kimberly Daniel will preside over the hearing for the court, according to Rae Ann Stein, who works for the Fairfax County Court Services Administration in records management. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations court has jurisdiction over juvenile matters, including offenses committed by adults against juveniles under the age of 18.
Police say Hassanen was part of a large group of teenagers walking and biking on Dranesville Road at about 3:40 a.m. after a Ramadan service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. The suspect allegedly approached the group in a car and argued with a teenage boy. The group scattered, but police say Torres caught up a short time later armed with a baseball bat. Hassanen was struck and taken in the car. Her body was discovered later that day in a Sterling pond.
Torres, who is a citizen of El Salvador and was living in Sterling without legal permission, had a detainer request lodged against him by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Hassanen was laid to rest as a martyr of her Muslim community on Wednesday, June 21. Later that same day, the community packed into Lake Anne Plaza for her vigil.
Torres was incarcerated at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bail, according to police. Authorities are seeking the harshest punishment, while many in the community are calling for the murder charges to be elevated to a bias-related crime.
Reston Association Board Meets Tonight — Directors are scheduled to give their thoughts about Fairfax County’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment on Reston density, appoint a new member to the Board and make decisions on budget items, among other actions and discussions. [Reston Now]
Search Warrant Gives Details of Nabra Hassanen Killing — The newly unsealed document reports that the man accused of killing the Reston teenager in July led police to her body after officers found him in his blood-stained vehicle. [Washington Post]
Fall Book Sale Starts Today — The Friends of Reston Regional Library will be hosting their semi-annual fundraiser sale from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. [Friends of Reston Regional Library]
Sound Artist at GRACE Gallery Tonight — Alex Braden will perform a new piece composed in direct response to “Sue Wrbican: Well Past the Echo,” now on display at the gallery (12001 Market St.). The event is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. [Greater Reston Arts Center]
NextStop Theatre Company (269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon) is hoping to spark open dialogue about Muslim assimilation and identity in America with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced,” which opens Thursday.
According to a press release from NextStop, several recent incidents have made this an issue of great relevance locally:
Not only did a viral video of an anti-Islam encounter in a Reston grocery store recently sweep the internet, with more than 3 million viewers watching the shocking incident, but the family of a recently murdered [Reston] teen believes their daughter was targeted because of her religion. Additionally, incidents of vandalism have also shaken residents recently, with the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center being targeted and graffiti found on a highway wall of Baron Cameron Drive near Fairfax County Parkway espousing hate messages.
In the play, “Amir” (portrayed by Jesse Bhamrah) is a Pakistani-American who has hidden his Muslim background as he finds success as a Manhattan corporate lawyer. He struggles with his identity and America’s complex attitudes about Muslims and Islam throughout the play.
“This is an opportunity to have conversations with people about identity and open up and explore who you are,” said Thembi Duncan, the play’s director, in the release. “That doesn’t necessarily sound pretty in marketing language, but you’re learning more about yourself by seeing these other people … and the only way that we move forward as a society is by making human connections across lines of difference.”
In addition to Bhamrah, the cast includes other professional actors from the DC area including Nahm Darr, Jordan Friend, Chaela Phillips and Jenna Rossman. The production team includes Jack Golden, set designer; Kristina Martin, costume designer; Jonathan Alexander, lighting designer; Kevin Alexander, sound designer; Keta Newborn, stage manager; Jessica Dubish, assistant director; Cheyanne Christopher, assistant stage manager; Marilyn Lopes, costume design apprentice; Jonathan Abolins, master electrician; and Kristin Pilgrim, fight choreographer.
Performances will be each Thursday through Sunday, through Oct. 1, with general admission tickets ranging from $17.50 to $55. The show contains adult language and situations that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
Silver Line Struggling to Maintain Riders — Phase 1 of Metro’s Silver Line expansion fueled an unprecedented building boom in areas adjacent to its five stations, the Washington Post reports. However, the line has struggled to attract riders in the three years since it opened. Only the Wiehle-Metro East station is even close to projected ridership numbers. [Washington Post]
Remembering Bob Simon — In a piece for an English-language Indian newspaper, Manish Nandy remembers the stories Bob Simon told him during daily walks around Lake Anne. [The Statesman]
‘White Liberals Give Themselves Too Much Credit’ — In an opinion piece for an “intersectional feminist” magazine, a Restonian looks back on the death of Nabra Hassanen, saying that hate lives here and everywhere. [Wear Your Voice]
Work Today at Park & Ride — The access road to the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride will have daytime lane closures for paving from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Drivers should watch for flaggers, who will help direct traffic around the lane closures. [Fairfax County]
Teavana Stores Shutting Down — Starbucks announced last week will close all 379 of its Teavana stores, which it says have been underperforming. This will include the store in Reston Town Center (1826 Library St.). [CNN Money]
Get Ready for Terraset — All rising Terraset kindergarteners are invited to the Terraset playground from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in August to meet classmates and play on the new Terraset playground. The August kindergarten play dates are sponsored by Terraset Elementary School and Terraset Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Representatives from the PTO will be on hand Aug. 2 and Aug. 9 to answer parent questions. No RSVP is required. [Terraset Parent Teacher Organization]
Hassanen Murder Suspect Court Date Set — A preliminary hearing has been set for Friday, Oct. 13, for the prosecution of Darwin Martinez Torres. Torres is accused of attacking, abducting and killing Nabra Hassanen in the early morning hours of June 18. [Connection Newspapers]
Libertarian Leaders Speaking in Reston — The Young Americans for Liberty conference, taking place today through Saturday at the Sheraton Reston Hotel, will feature more than 40 speakers sharing Libertarian values. Among them will be Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Judge Andrew Napolitano. [Young Americans for Liberty]
Changes Made to WMATA Board — The Trump Administration is replacing a pair of safety specialists, who were appointed by President Obama’s transportation secretary, with a pair of finance and budget bureaucrats who worked in the Bush Administration. [WAMU]
Work Being Done on Reston Station Staircase — The stairs from Reston Station Boulevard to the Wiehle-Reston East plaza are closed for repairs, which include new tiles on the landings and improvements to the drainage system. [Fairfax Connector]
Nearly $60M in County’s Carryover Budget — The county executive recommends the funds be used in part to fund reserves and infrastructure needs, along with other projects including the demolition of the Massey Building. [Fairfax County]
Supreme Court Ruling Leads to Changes in Sign Zoning — After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “content-based” regulations on signs do not meet the strict scrutiny test required by the First Amendment to protect free speech, the County must re-examine its zoning rules regarding messages on signs. [Fairfax County]
Saving the Environment One Straw at a Time — Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day. Karan Marari, 11, of Reston, is aiming to reduce their use locally with his “no straw request.” He is educating restaurant owners, urging them to change their wait staff’s behaviors and practices that lead to the unsolicited placement of plastic straws in patrons’ drinks. [Reston Connection]
One Month Anniversary of Nabra’s Death — An event is scheduled for Sunday to mark the one-month anniversary Nabra Hassanen’s killing. The goal of the event is to ease people’s pain through prayer. [All Dulles Area Muslim Society]
Boating Safety Tips — The Marine Patrol Unit has published a list of safety tips for those who plan to spend time on the water. These include wearing a life jacket, checking the durability of one’s boat, bringing emergency items such as snacks and water onboard, and more. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Line Dancer to Instruct Tonight at Lake Anne — The “Take A Break” concert series at Lake Anne Plaza will continue tonight with a dance night from Cedar Creek. Learn to dance as the tunes take over. [Lake Anne Plaza]
As the community continues to grieve after last month’s shocking killing of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society is providing opportunities for support.
“It’s still having a shock wave, a ripple effect, however you want to describe it,” said Joshua Salaam, ADAMS Center chaplain, prior to a parent-outreach session Thursday afternoon at Forest Edge Elementary School. “People of all ages, all genders, all ethnicities are so traumatized by it.”
To help work through that trauma, the ADAMS Center along with Fairfax and Loudoun counties have been reaching out into the community to lend strength. Further relief opportunities have been announced for later this month, including listening sessions, youth hangouts and a letter-writing campaign.
In addition, a public gathering to reflect on the tragedy is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, from noon-3 p.m. at the ADAMS Center (46903 Sugarland Road, Sterling). Abidah Ali, ADAMS Center youth coordinator, said the afternoon will be directed toward young people, but all members of the community are invited to attend and show their support.
Salaam said the July dates are the beginnings of a year-long support plan to help the community work its way through the stages of grief.
“[The plan] involves a diverse way of healing — some might be with animals, some might be with art, some might be with writing,” he said. “We want it to be long-term, so youth and parents are given hope that they’re not just going to be forgotten about in a week.”
To be kept up-to-date on future activities related to coping with the loss, text @e4Nabra to 81010. You can also stay connected through the ADAMS Youth website.
In a media alert Wednesday afternoon, the Fairfax County Police Department says there is no credible information to link 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, a Salvadoran national living in Sterling, with any gang.
“Homicide detectives investigating the murder of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen looked into whether the suspect, Darwin Martinez Torres, is a gang member or affiliated with gangs, but have found no credible information to support any connection. The case remains active and we will release additional information as we can. Martinez Torres remains at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.”
Using information received from a Loudoun County woman, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Torres “had punched, choked and sexually assaulted [the woman] and was a member of the MS-13 street gang.” The newspaper also cited Loudoun County Child Protective Services documents that “were read to a Washington Post reporter.”
FCPD has worked to combat rumors throughout its investigation into the brutal killing last Sunday morning. It has also repeatedly shot down community insistence that the Muslim teen’s slaying was hate-motivated. Rather, they’ve said, Torres was experiencing extreme road rage when he drove onto the curb, exited his vehicle with a baseball bat and attacked.
Nabra’s violent death has struck a chord within the community at large. A crowd in the thousands came out for a vigil in her honor last week at Lake Anne Plaza.
Torres Linked to Previous Attack, Gang — A week before Darwin Martinez Torres was arrested and charged with murdering Nabra Hassanen, a woman reported he had punched, choked and sexually assaulted her. She also claims he is a member of the MS-13 street gang. [Washington Post] (Editor’s Note: The Fairfax County Police Department later said there is “no credible information” to support gang ties.)
Brew House To Host Beer Rally Tonight — Teams of three will run three laps around Lake Anne. Each lap is a mile and a half, and contestants can either run one lap each or all three laps together. There will be prizes raffled and a chance for free drinks. [Lake Anne Brew House/Facebook]
Reston Hospital Center Gives Out Scholarships — Last week, the medical staff of Reston Hospital Center awarded $15,000 worth of scholarships to 15 Fairfax and Loudoun County high school seniors. Hasmah Hussain, from South Lakes High School, was one of the recipients. [Reston Hospital Center]
Modified Bus Schedule for July 4 — Fairfax Connector buses will run on a Saturday schedule on July 4. [Fairfax County Goverment]
E. Ethelbert Miller at Greater Reston Arts Center — Writer and literary activist will come to the Greater Reston Arts Center at 6 p.m. Thursday. Miller has been the editor of poetry magazine Poet Lore for 10 years, and he is the author of several collections of poetry and two memoirs. [Greater Reston Arts Center]