Series of drug buys led to Woodbridge High School teen’s killing, authorities say

Da'Shawn Hand and the Woodbridge Vikings cope with tragedy off the field by coming together for a win on it. (Brad Horn and Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)
October 17, 2013

Diandra “Dee” Samuels and several others drove around Woodbridge hunting the teenage boys who had just tried to rob her during a drug buy, court papers allege. One passenger had nunchucks. There was also a long knife.

The group already had one of the would-be robbers, Kenny Diaz, Prince William County detectives say in the documents. The high school linebacker, his head bloodied and bandaged, was a hostage in his own car.

They pulled his Subaru Forester into Marumsco Acre Lake Park, for a final stop. Some in the group dragged Diaz into the woods, according to the accounts of two people who are charged in the case.

There, police said, the diminutive dealer plunged a blade into the burly Woodbridge High School football player. Witnesses said Diaz stumbled out of the woods. Samuels and the others fled, police said, leaving the 18-year-old to die.

The case is in its preliminary stages, and authorities are still trying to sort out exactly what happened in the park. Not all the accounts of those arrested have been made public. But the story of the Sept. 21 slaying has begun to emerge from interviews with law enforcement officials, court documents and the accounts of three people charged in the case that were provided to The Washington Post by their attorneys and family members.


Kenny Joseph Diaz (Family photo)

Diaz’s killing appears to be the culmination of events that began with something common: a 16-year-old trying to score some pot. It quickly escalated to armed robbery and ended with as many eight people on a winding procession to the park, where Diaz met his end.

As one defense attorney put it in court, events “went sideways.”

The death of the high school senior shocked the county, but so has news of the alleged perpetrator.

Samuels, 19, who police said was a marijuana dealer, stood out in a world usually dominated by men. Samuels’s childhood friend Taiya Russell said Samuels boasted of beating up other girls and robbing teens who came to buy drugs.

Samuels is charged with murder. Eleven others — some barely old enough to get driver’s licenses — are facing lesser counts.

Attorneys representing all of the adults charged in the case have declined to comment, but some have disputed their clients’ roles in the abduction during bond hearings. The juveniles involved in the case have not been publicly identified. Police accounts put Samuels at the center.

“Everybody knows her. Everybody knows what she has. She was the person to call if you wanted tree,” said Russell, 20, using a slang term for marijuana.

The stickup

The path to Marumsco park began nine days earlier. A 16-year-old friend of Diaz’s set up a meeting with Samuels, his regular marijuana dealer, according to a criminal complaint.

Neighbors recall Samuels dressing stylishly in matching baseball caps and Air Jordans. Russell said that she went to the “best” parties and that people regularly came to her Woodbridge apartment to smoke pot.

The slick image contrasts sharply with family vacation photos of Samuels from a few years earlier that her mother, who declined to be interviewed, posted on her Facebook page. The skinny, braided girl is seen on the beach in the Outer Banks, playing with her siblings.

Samuels seemed to grow up quickly. She bounced from school to school before eventually dropping out of Woodbridge High School in the 11th grade. Friends said she was volatile but also caring and loyal.

“She would step in front of a cement truck to save a cat,” said childhood friend Jesse Klapperich.

Samuels had a rocky relationship with her stepfather and had recently moved out of her parents’ home, friends said. She shared her apartment with her girlfriend, Airel Adams, who was charged with abduction in connection with the slaying.

In the past year, Russell said, Samuels had been slipping toward a rougher lifestyle after she began hanging out with a convicted felon named Dominic Smith.

Russell said Samuels, who worked at a Potomac Mills mall shoe store, appeared to need money.

When Diaz’s friend arrived at Samuels’s modest apartment complex Sept. 12, Samuels pulled a gun on him and took about $150, according to court papers. Police said the teen never reported the robbery, but it was hardly forgotten.

The teen, Diaz and three friends concocted a plan to get even: They would set up a meeting with Samuels under the pretense of buying drugs and then rob her, the court papers say.

Until then, relatives and friends said, Diaz seemed to be headed in the right direction. He was an altar boy at Our Lady of Angels in Woodbridge and planned to attend college. More than anything, his life revolved around football.

The reserve linebacker and fullback wore the No. 43 jersey on the Woodbridge High School varsity team. He coached kids and was an ardent Redskins fan.

One longtime friend recalled a happy moment when he got a picture of himself with two of the Redskins’ cheerleaders at a game. “He was beaming,” Claudia Turner said.

Many still can’t reconcile the circumstances of his killing with the teen they knew.

“He had no enemies. He would always crack people up,” said Moiz Quereshi, 18, a friend of Diaz’s. “I can only believe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Whatever Diaz’s motivation, he and three other boys set off on Saturday, Sept. 21, intent on confronting Samuels, according to a search warrant.

They had two guns. They would soon be in over their heads.

A robbery gone wrong

Diaz and his buddies arrived at Samuels’s Glen Arbor apartment about 3 p.m., court papers say. A number of people were hanging around out front that afternoon, according to the accounts of two people arrested in the case.

The teens had arranged to meet Samuels in a cramped basement laundry room, police said in court papers. As they entered, they realized Samuels had sent someone else to meet them: Dominic Smith.

Immediately, one of Diaz’s 16-year-old friends pulled out a handgun to rob Smith, court papers say. Smith, 26, who had gone to jail for armed robbery, quickly snatched the gun from him and pistol-whipped the teen in the face, prosecutors said in court.

Three teens fled the complex, but Diaz was left behind, police say in court documents. A group of people held Diaz down as they waited for Samuels, a prosecutor said at a bond hearing last week.

Samuels came out of the building and began yelling at Diaz, according to an account of one of the people arrested in the case. A prosecutor said in court that three people saw Samuels assault Diaz outside the building. According to a search warrant, he was struck in the head with a blunt object, opening a bloody wound.

Diaz told Samuels that he didn’t know his friends planned to rob her, according to the account one defendant gave her attorney.

Gregory Bonds, a 22-year-old resident of the building, led Diaz up to his apartment — number 408 — and bandaged his wound, court papers allege. Bonds had a pair of nunchucks that police said he later took to the park.

Soon after, several people who live in the complex planned to go after the teens who had escaped, according to two accounts of people arrested in the case. Some of the residents were angry that someone had tried to commit an armed robbery at their complex during the daytime, when many children were around.

There also had been several other recent robberies and some wanted to find out if the teens were the ones behind them, according to the account of one person arrested in the case. There was never a plan to kill Diaz, according to attorneys of two people charged in the case.

People piled into two cars and drove off.

The hunt meandered around Woodbridge, taking them to a nearby McDonald’s, where another resident of the complex, Deneen Williams, 29, who has been charged with abduction, joined the procession in a pickup truck, her husband, Miguel Ortiz, said in an interview. They stopped at a grocery store, but they found no sign of Diaz’s friends.

Someone videotaped some of the events, according to a search warrant. But authorities did not specify who made the recording or what was filmed.

Then, Samuels turned Diaz’s car toward the park.

At the park, one of the group grabbed Diaz’s cellphone and searched it, looking for evidence that he was involved in the robbery plot, two defense lawyers involved in the case said.

Members of the group took Diaz into the woods, according to accounts of two people charged. Ortiz said his wife told him that Samuels and her associates soon came sprinting out and that Diaz came out, too.

“He was clutching his stomach,” Ortiz said his wife told him.

Samuels and the others headed to the cars: “Let’s go! Let’s go!” she said, according to the account of one person arrested in the case. They sped off.

People playing basketball nearby found Diaz and called for help.

A community in shock

News spread quickly in the following hours and days that a member of the Woodbridge High School football team had died.

Students wore red to school — Diaz’s favorite color — on the Monday after his killing. Flowers appeared at his football locker, and hundreds of mourners packed the church where Diaz had been an altar boy for his funeral.

Prince William detectives quickly unraveled the case and have been working to sort out the accounts of what happened. Samuels was arrested two days after the killing and faces charges including murder, aggravated malicious wounding, abduction and armed robbery. Airel Adams, and six friends or residents of Samuels’s apartment complex were charged with abduction.

Four of Diaz’s friends were charged with attempted armed robbery and other counts.

Defense attorney Terry D. Adams, who is representing Adams, told a judge at a bond hearing that his client was not involved in the abduction. He said it was “hard to imagine” how law enforcement officials could have charged so many people.

“Chaos spilled out into the street.” Many are being charged simply because they happened to be there, Adams said. “It’s not a crime to be in the vicinity . . . when chaos is erupting behind you.”

Michael Alison Chandler, Jennifer Jenkins and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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