Man Slain In Attack on Couple in Georgetown

By Lori Montgomery and Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 10, 2006; A01

Three assailants who cut the throat of an aspiring politician from Britain killed him and tried to rape his female companion early yesterday in the driveway of a Georgetown mansion, police reported, after the couple had returned from a night at the movies.

The victim, Alan Senitt, 27, a Jewish activist and volunteer for former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner, died at the scene, police said. The woman, whom police declined to identify, was not injured.

Within hours, D.C. police arrested four people in connection with one of the most brutal crimes in years on the affluent streets of Georgetown and said they were looking for possible links to other recent attacks in the city.

Christopher Piper, 25, of Southeast Washington was charged with felony murder and attempted sexual assault. The others -- Jeffery Rice, 22, of Southeast; Olivia Miles, 26, of Northeast; and a 15-year-old boy from Southeast whom police declined to identify because he has been charged as a juvenile -- all face murder charges.

According to police and others, the attack occurred shortly after 2 a.m. as Senitt was seeing the woman home. The couple walked north on 31st Street NW, then turned west toward Wisconsin Avenue on Q Street NW, where the woman lives.

The two were rummaging in the trunk of a car when they were approached by three men wielding a gun and a knife. Police said Piper, who had the gun, grabbed the woman and began dragging her down the driveway. Out of view of his companions, he tried to pull off her clothes, police said. The attacker made a comment "in reference to his intent to commit a sexual assault," said Lt. Robert Glover of the police department's violent crimes branch, which is handling the investigation.

Meanwhile, the other two assailants grabbed Senitt, stabbed him and slashed his throat.

As Senitt lay dying, the three men fled with the woman's purse. The woman ran onto Q Street, flagged down a taxi and begged for help.

"She came in the street and was yelling, 'Stop! I need help! We got robbed!' " said taxi driver Ayalew Haile, who returned to Georgetown yesterday to retrieve his cab, which was trapped behind police tape for much of the day. "I stopped because you have to help someone. My passenger called the police for her."

Police received the 911 call at 2:18 a.m. and responded with paramedics almost immediately. They found several people trying to help Senitt, Glover said, "though those efforts were fruitless." Senitt's body was taken to the medical examiner's office.

The woman, a former babysitter for developer Herb Miller, lives in Miller's basement apartment. She was too upset to talk to reporters, said Miller, who was at his Maryland farm at the time of the attack. He rushed to Washington upon hearing the news. "It's very sad," he said. "So quickly to take somebody's life for nothing."

Barely three hours after the attack, at 5:30 a.m., police arrested Piper and Rice in the 2700 block of Robinson Place SE. The 15-year-old boy and Miles, who is accused of driving a green Toyota suspected to be a getaway car, surrendered to police around lunchtime, authorities said. All four are expected to be arraigned in court today.

As he was being escorted by police, a man in handcuffs whom WRC-TV (Channel 4) identified as Rice apologized for what happened. But he told the station during a brief sidewalk interview, "I did not have anything to do with the murder."

Second Police District Cmdr. Andy Solberg said the quick arrests resulted from leads detectives have developed while investigating two robberies that occurred last month in the same neighborhood. He declined to provide details. Police reports show that a trio of attackers robbed Georgetown pedestrians in the early hours of June 4 and June 11, fleeing with wallets, cash and cellphones.

In late May, three couples walking on the Mall at night were robbed by three assailants in separate incidents. The robbers wore black ski masks in at least one of the cases. In all three attacks, the women were specially targeted: One was groped, one was beaten and a third was sexually assaulted.

Glover declined to comment on a possible connection between Senitt's slaying and those attacks but said police are "taking a broad look at any other crimes that may fit what happened here."

By yesterday afternoon, police had reopened Q Street. People strolled past Miller's house, where two police cruisers stood guard. A few doors down, a woman tending geraniums said she had been awakened by police sirens but didn't know a killing had occurred until she contacted a radio station.

Police officials and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) are scheduled to discuss the crime with residents at 6:30 tonight in a meeting at Christ Church, 31st and O streets NW.

"We've had a spate of robberies, but what's unusual here is the sheer viciousness of the crime. It's awful," said Bill Starrels, a Georgetown advisory neighborhood commissioner. "You have a young man trying to get his lady friend home safely. And he essentially gave up his life trying to get her home safely."

Word of Senitt's death traveled rapidly across the Atlantic Ocean to family members in London and friends in Jerusalem. An activist dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and promoting Israel, Senitt served twice as the elected head of the Union of Jewish Students, which represents about 5,000 college students in Britain.

Later, Senitt worked for Greville Janner, a member of the House of Lords from Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party who founded the Co-Existence Trust, a group that promotes Muslim-Jewish relations.

Last month, Senitt quit that job and moved to Washington to volunteer for Warner's potential presidential campaign and study political fundraising. Senitt was a Labor candidate this year for the council in the northwest London neighborhood where he was raised. He lost, but Danny Stone, a friend who took over at the Co-Existence Trust, said Senitt was committed to a life in politics.

"He was a serious contender for mainstream political life," Stone said. "He was up and coming. He would have been brilliant, I'm sure of it."

Senitt's parents, Jack and Karen, sister Emma and brother James issued a statement mourning the loss of "a much loved son and brother." They asked that they be allowed "to grieve in private."

"The Jewish community as a whole has lost one of its bright young leaders and the wider world has lost a champion of peace and goodwill," the statement said. "It will take us a lifetime to come to terms with our tragic loss."

Sullivan reported from London. Staff writers Martin Weil and Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.

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