About the time that Kenny Diaz’s mother was frantically looking for him, the 18-year-old Woodbridge football player was trying to escape from his car.
Diandra “Dee” Samuels was driving Diaz’s Subaru Forester on the afternoon of Sept. 21, according to new testimony Monday as part of a preliminary hearing in Prince William General District Court.
Diaz would get out of the car just one more time, at a public park nearby. Samuels allegedly killed Diaz in a wooded area of the park, near a duck pond. The crime shocked Prince William County and the Woodbridge High School community.
Twelve people have been charged in the case. Four 16-year-old juveniles who were involved with Diaz and eight associated with Samuels — five women and three men, ages 19 to 32 — abducted Diaz and drove him to a park, where he was fatally stabbed, officials say.
Samuels, 19, has been charged with murder.
In the moments before his death, Diaz was in his passenger seat, according to court testimony. Samuels had grabbed his phone, where she found texts indicating that he had helped set up a plan to rob her that day.
That revelation, two people there testified Monday, enraged Samuels and members of her group.
The events of Sept. 21 began when Diaz asked Samuels to sell him a half-ounce of marijuana, or $200 worth, Dominic G. Smith testified Monday. Smith, 26, has been charged in the case. Samuels agreed to meet Diaz at her Glen Arbor apartment building on Bellona Road, according to testimony.
But Samuels never intended to sell Diaz anything, Smith said. Instead, she sent Smith, a convicted felon, to take Diaz’s money because she was angry at his friend for shorting her $20 in a separate marijuana deal.
Samuels had already gotten her money back — and more. Nine days earlier, Diaz’s friend, a 16-year-old, had gone to her apartment to give her the $20, Smith testified. She pulled a weapon on him and took $150, all the money he had on him, according to Smith and court papers.
Still, Samuels was angry at Diaz and his group for trying to take money from her. So she sent Smith, her brother, to do the drug deal in the laundry room of her apartment complex. Smith planned to rob Diaz, hoping he would bring the $200 with him. He filled a bag with oregano, he testified.
That’s when things “went sideways,” as an attorney in the case has said. Smith said he became suspicious when Diaz showed up with two friends and soon realized they were there to rob him. When two of the juveniles pulled out guns, Smith saw that one of them did not have a bullet in the chamber. He grabbed the gun and hit the boy in the face twice, Smith testified. Both boys took off, but Diaz stayed behind.
“Kenny played dumb, like he didn’t know what was going on,” Smith said.
Hearing the commotion, about 20 or 30 people in the building came outside. Samuels joined them and was enraged by Diaz’s plot to rob her and the fact that he did not have any money on him, Smith testified. She took a pipe or crow bar and struck Diaz near his forehead, Smith said.
Diaz began bleeding profusely. Smith said he ran; after six years in prison on burglary and other charges, he wanted no part in what was happening.
“I just come home from six years . . . probably thinking, everybody’s about to do something with this kid. So I ran,” he testified.
Gregory A. Bonds, who has been charged in the case, took Diaz to his apartment to bandage his head. Then Diaz was put back into his own car to help find the two friends who had run off.
Diaz tried to unlock the doors several times, but Samuels pushed the lock button back down every time, Renee C. Caples testified. Caples, 22, has been charged in the case.
They never found Diaz’s friends. Those juveniles, who face separate charges of attempted armed robbery, among other offenses, left their friend “in the lurch,” alone and fighting for his life, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Conway said.
Caples testified that after a stop at McDonald’s, Samuels, with Teena Gerbozy following in a pickup truck, drove Diaz to Marumsco Acre Lake Park in Woodbridge. Caples stayed behind in Samuels’ car, but a group went into the woods with Diaz and Samuels.
Caples testified that she saw Samuels return to get “a huge machete-type weapon” from under the driver’s seat. A drawing shown in court and later obtained by The Washington Post shows a large blade, curved like a machete. Minutes later, Diaz was stumbling away from the woods and the duck pond, clutching his stomach and bleeding, Caples testified.
“Get up!” several members of the group yelled after Diaz hit the ground. When he didn’t, everyone scrambled, driving away, Caples said. Diaz was found dead hours later.
Caples said that Bonds, one of the other passengers, later told her that he saw Samuels stab Diaz.
“I just hopped in the car and tried to get away,” Caples said in court. “I didn’t say anything. I tried to block it out of my head.”
Samuels has a preliminary hearing in February on the murder charge. Her attorney, Barry Zweig, declined to comment Monday.
Monday’s testimony came as part of a preliminary hearing for Airel J. Adams, 19, and Bonds, 22, who have both been charged with Diaz’s abduction.
Prince William Judge Tracy C. Hudson said there was enough evidence Monday for the charges against Adams and Bonds to be considered by a grand jury in January.
Terry Adams, an attorney for Airel Adams, said prosecutors had no basis for the charge against his client. He also disputed Caples’s claims that his client struck Diaz while he was in the car and was with those who went into the woods with Samuels. He said Caples has changed her story several times when talking to police and detectives.
“She weighs 110 pounds soaking wet,” Adams said of Airel Adams. “I don’t think this young lady sitting before you . . . was involved in intimidating Mr. Diaz.”
He also said there was never any plan to kill Diaz.
Thomas Wilson, Bonds’s attorney, said his client had been wrongly accused. “There is no evidence here that Mr. Bonds threatened [Diaz] . . . detained him or transported him,” he said.
Monday’s most emotional testimony came from Diaz’s mother, Velma Merida-Diaz, who said she had asked her son to come home by 1:30 that Saturday afternoon. She had gone out looking for him when she couldn’t reach him on his cellphone. She began to become frantic — she had a bad feeling, she testified.
After police officers came to her door to tell her what happened, she testified, she didn’t want to believe it. “I convinced myself when I saw [my son] at the funeral,” she said.