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WASHINGTON — Fairfax County police say there is no indication so far that a 17-year-old Muslim girl was killed because of her religion.
The Reston girl was last seen after she was assaulted by a motorist who had climbed out of his car and confronted a group of teens as they walked to a local mosque after an early morning breakfast. Her remains were found Sunday afternoon in an office park pond in Sterling.
Her name has not been released, pending the medical examiner’s autopsy.
“We can’t investigate something that’s not there,” said Fairfax County police spokesman Don Gotthardt. “We’re not ignoring, we’re not overlooking anything, and if anything suggests religion as a motive we will include it.”
Gotthardt said detectives have talked with the driver Darwin A. Martinez Torres — a 22-year-old Sterling man who has been charged with murder in the girl’s death — but would not disclose whether Torres provided investigators with a possible motive.
“There was no known relationship between the victim and suspect,” Gotthardt said.
Monday morning, a tweet from Fairfax County Police, issued less than a day after the girl’s body was found, drew a lot of attention however.
— Fairfax Co. Police (@fairfaxpolice) June 19, 2017
“The goal of the tweet was to quell anxiety, because of the obvious,” Gotthardt said. “The victim is Muslim, and the incident happened near a mosque.”
When contacted by WTOP, Gotthardt clarified that detectives remain open to all motives, including religious hatred, he said.
“Obviously in today’s world, we have to take that into consideration,” he said.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh told WTOP that although police may have been trying to soothe a worried public, he has not come to any conclusions on possible motives.
“I always try to wait until all the evidence is in,” Morrogh said. “It’s still early in the investigation — who knows what will come in.”
While acknowledgment of the hate component would be important, Morrogh said the potential punishment associated with hate crime charges are just a fraction of the years in prison facing someone who is convicted of murder in Virginia.
“Would it be possible to add one of those hate crime charges? Sure. But we’re talking about murder,” Morrogh said. “Let’s wait until we get all the information and I’ll make the judgment.”
The teens the girl was with ran to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque, where someone called 911 and reported her missing about 4 a.m. Sunday.
Almost 12 hours later, police discovered what were believed to be the girl’s remains on Ridgetop Circle, several miles from the ADAMS Center, in Loudoun County.
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