Capitol Heights Man Charged in D.C. Couple's Deaths

Virginia Spevak at an environmental event on the steps of the Capitol in April, 2007.
Virginia Spevak at an environmental event on the steps of the Capitol in April, 2007. (Courtesy of Claire Duggan)
By Clarence Williams and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A 27-year-old Capitol Heights man was arrested yesterday and charged with felony murder in the killings of a couple, both social activists, who were found dead Saturday in their house in the Chevy Chase area of the District.

The suspect was identified by police last night as Peiro E. Fuentes Hernandez. Police said the motive was robbery, and they said the victims had apparently been targeted.

"This was not a random crime," D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said at a news conference. The deaths came in a part of the District where homicide is almost unheard of.

Police said the suspect was arrested about 4:15 p.m. yesterday, less than 72 hours after the discovery of the bodies of Michael Spevak, 68, a psychiatrist, and his wife, Virginia, 67, a former teacher.

Police released no information about the suspect at the news conference. However, a woman who said she is Hernandez's aunt and who lives in a Capitol Heights house searched by police yesterday said Hernandez came to this area last year and had been living in her house for several months.

Two police sources, who declined to be identified because the case is ongoing, said a key event in the investigation was the discovery Sunday morning of the Toyota Scion belonging to the Spevaks.

The car, which had been set on fire, was in the 500 block of Ingraham Street NW in a neighborhood about three or four miles east of where the Spevaks lived.

After finding the car, police searched the nearby area, taking custody of items that were described as evidence.

They also searched a house in the area and interviewed people living there.

Sources said that the investigation in the Ingraham Street area provided information that apparently led to the search of the premises in Capitol Heights.

The victims were found Saturday in their house, in the 5300 block of Belt Road NW, in a neighborhood where people speak highly of the couple and their long record of involvement in community and humanitarian activities.

It was not clear when they were killed. A daughter has said that she had not been able to reach them since Thursday. Nobody answered the door when neighbors went to the house Friday for a scheduled party.

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