Marine held in 1 Ballston case is target in probe of weekend rape

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010; B03

The man approached two young Arlington women just as they were arriving home at 4 a.m. Saturday following a late-late-night meal in Ballston. He had a gun. He ordered them inside. He restrained them.

When one dialed 911 on her cellphone, the man noticed, grabbed a woman and left the house on North Wakefield Street abruptly. Four hours later, the victim was found struggling to reach a roadside in Prince William County, sexually assaulted and beaten within an inch of her life.

Arlington County police said the brutal and unusual stranger attack is probably linked to a suspect they arrested late Saturday in another North Arlington abduction case from two weeks ago. Police said they think a 21-year-old Marine stationed in Northern Virginia "was looking for an easy victim" and followed the women as they left the Ballston area.

Jorge "George" Torrez, who was living at the Marine Corps' Henderson Hall at Fort Myer, was arrested Saturday night as he tried to leave the base in his car. He has been charged with abduction and robbery in connection with a Feb. 10 incident along North Quincy Street, near Washington-Lee High School, during which he allegedly tried to force a woman into a car at gunpoint before settling for stealing her purse about 12:30 a.m.

"If these two cases are connected, there's obviously a clear escalation within two weeks," said Detective Crystal Nosal, a police spokeswoman, who said police are looking to see whether there are other related cases. "Two weeks ago the woman convinced him not to take her, and then he confronts two women and leaves one for dead in Prince William County."

Police did not say how they tracked Torrez down, but a police composite compiled after the Feb. 10 attack looks a lot like him. They also worked with a description of his vehicle and the witness's description of the crime.

Torrez's older sister said Sunday that she was shocked to learn of the allegations and said she never would have imagined her brother doing anything of the sort.

"I hope they have the wrong guy. I hope they're mistaken," said Sara Torrez, 24. "This would be extremely out of character for him. He's fun-loving and has a good head on his shoulders."

Torrez, who joined the Marine Corps at 18 immediately after graduating from high school in Zion, Ill., served in Okinawa, Japan, for two years before moving to Northern Virginia last year, according to his family. He had a lifelong ambition to join the military, an ambition that solidified after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his sister said.

"The only thing he wanted to do when he joined the Marine Corps was to go overseas to Iraq, but he never got deployed," Sara Torrez said. "His unit went to Iraq, and he was the only one who didn't go because they needed him to stay in Japan. He was disappointed about that."

Sara Torrez said her brother has been working at the Pentagon and seemed to be enjoying it, their discussions centering on whether he wanted to continue with a career in the Marine Corps or to leave, go to school and return to Illinois.

On his MySpace page, last accessed on Friday, Torrez listed his mood as "stressed."

He had recently purchased a Dodge Durango after he wrecked his blue Ford Mustang in a highway pileup near Quantico, his sister said. Police did not release information about the vehicle they were looking for or say in what kind of vehicle Torrez was arrested.

Police said the abduction early Saturday was extremely unusual for Arlington, especially in the area surrounding Ballston. The attack occurred a few blocks from the Ballston Common Mall and about a 10-minute walk from the Metro station. Police said they think the women were followed at some point after they left a Ballston restaurant, and they are checking surveillance videos for evidence.

Police responded to the 911 hang-up call from the North Wakefield house with everything they had, including K-9 units and Fairfax County and Maryland State Police helicopters.

"It doesn't seem like this sort of thing ever happens here," said Peter Penczer, 48, who lives a few houses down from the scene. "You always see people walking here from Ballston. It's safe."

The woman who was abducted early Saturday was found seeking help about 8 a.m. along Minnieville Road in Prince William County, close to the edge of Marine Corps Base Quantico. Police said the woman was raped and dumped in the woods and left for dead after a severe beating. She was treated at a hospital.

"She's lucky to be alive," Nosal said.

If prosecutors in Virginia think her attacker tried to kill her, a charge of attempted capital murder could be pursued in court. Such a charge carries a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

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