Suspect in Oct. ambush in Bethesda might have fled to China

  Enlarge Photo    
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Montgomery County police obtained an arrest warrant for a former economist at the International Monetary Fund who flew to China a month after they believe he ambushed a supervisor in Bethesda, authorities said Monday.

Detectives don't know whether Mohau Mercy Mathibe, who is charged with attempted murder, is still in China. He flew there Nov. 22, police said. His ultimate destination could be South Africa, where he was born. Detectives also received reports of him possibly going to Japan, according to a police spokesman. His last known address was in Arlington County.

On Oct. 8, Ashoka Mody, 54, a well-respected IMF economist, had just pulled his minivan into his garage when he was shot. Mody was hospitalized and is recovering at his home, police said.

Mathibe, 36, worked at the fund until Jan. 2, 2008. He was part of an entry-level program for economists but was not retained, as many in the program are, according to IMF and police officials. Detectives think that he might have had a grudge against Mody.

"We don't know what was in his head, but he may have blamed Mody for not being retained," said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman.

Detectives found a black knit hat near the crime scene, which someone apparently had made into a mask by cutting holes in it. Police have tested it for DNA, but it is unclear what the results were.

Mody's family is relieved by the progress detectives are making, according to a family spokesman. "This has been a terrible ordeal for the Mody family," the spokesman said.

Colleagues described Mody as a gentle soul who went on yoga retreats and posted New Yorker cartoons on his office door.

One co-worker said Monday that Mody enjoyed being a mentor for younger economists. The co-worker, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said Mathibe never expressed violent thoughts at work but did come across as socially awkward.

Mathibe was born in Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa, according to a biography from a program that supported him, the Mandela Economics Scholars Program. He studied at the University of the Free State in South Africa and eventually made his way to Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He studied at Vanderbilt in 1999 and 2000, receiving a master's degree in economics on Dec. 21, 2000, according to the registrar's office.

By October 2005, he was working at the IMF. He got to know Mody, in part, while they studied the economy of Hungary. Mody was born in India.

On Oct. 8, 2009, after a full day's work at the IMF, where he is an assistant director of the European Department, Mody pulled up to his home on Millwood Road. He opened the garage door and pulled inside.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company