FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A 22-year-old Virginia man was held on a murder charge Monday in the slaying of a teenage Muslim girl who was attacked during a breakfast break from an all-night prayer session at her mosque.
Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling was arraigned in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and ordered held without bail pending a July 19 court appearance.
The Fairfax County Police Department tweeted Monday, without elaborating, that “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.”
Fairfax County Police Spokesman Don Gotthardt later clarified to The Associated Press that while the investigation remains in its early stages and things could change, detectives have so far found no indication of a link “between the victim’s faith or religious beliefs or the mosque and the crime itself.”
According to statements from police and the mosque, the girl and her friends were walking back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque from a McDonald’s in the Sterling area between 3 and 4 a.m. Sunday when a man drove up and some kind of altercation ensued.
According to WRC-TV in Washington, the girls ran away and didn’t realize until later that the victim wasn’t with them.
During an intense search for the girl, an officer stopped a car being driven suspiciously on Sunday and the driver, later identified as Martinez Torres was taken into custody, police said.
WRC-TV reported that Martinez Torres was questioned near the scene of the attack, and led officers several miles away to a retention pond across the street from his apartment complex where a female body, believed to be the girl’s, was found at about 3 p.m. Sunday.
“What investigators told the father and the mother, he hit her in the head and put her in the car and he threw her in the water,” said family friend and spokesperson Abas Sherif.
ADAMS is one of the largest mosques in the country, and is particularly busy during Ramadan. Observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, and since Ramadan this year overlaps with the summer solstice, and sunrise occurs well before 6 a.m., some Muslims will eat large meals in predawn hours.
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” the society said in the news release. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.” It said the society was enlisting licensed counselors to assist anyone in need.
A statement by Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates, a national legal and educational organization for American Muslims, said the tragedy occurring on Father’s Day and during the holy month of Ramadan, “strikes the heart of the strong community of the ADAMS Center and of Fairfax.”
“We urge both local and federal authorities to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into all possible motives for this gruesome crime,” Ahussain said.
Without elaborating, the Fairfax County Police Department tweeted Monday that “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.”
A Fairfax Police spokesperson later stressed to The Associated Press that the investigation is in its early stages, while saying that at this point, they have no indication of a link between the victim’s faith and the crime.