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Street argument preceded Fairfax homicide

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 10:22 PM

Stephen Carr and Rina Cabrera were at home on a Sunday night, sitting in their living room watching the Redskins-Cowboys game, when a man dressed completely in black walked straight in through their unlocked front door. And he had a gun, Cabrera said.

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"I'd never seen him before," Cabrera said, recalling the Sept. 12 night at the couple's home in the Springfield area of Fairfax County. Authorities say Carr had encountered him before, when the men fought briefly in Carr's driveway after a traffic altercation in June. They were due in court on the case later that week. But Carr apparently didn't recognize him either.

Cabrera said she fled the house, then heard what sounded like a gunshot. When the man in black forced her back into the house, Carr was lying on the sofa, unconscious.

When police arrived, Carr, 48, was dead. David A. Patton, 44, was arrested in the back yard.

When Cabrera looked at Patton from the witness stand Tuesday and was asked to identify her attacker, she said, "It's him."

Fairfax County General District Court Judge William A. Minor Jr. found probable cause to send the murder charge to the grand jury. Patton, who is being held without bond, did not testify Tuesday. His lower left arm remained in a cast, as it was during his initial court appearances last month. His attorneys declined to say why.

The reason for Patton's animosity toward Carr also remained unclear. Carr was known in the neighborhood for having a speed hump installed near his house on Field Master Drive. Drivers sometimes honked their horns in annoyance as they slowed down, but there was no indication Tuesday that the speed hump caused the fight between Patton, who lives nearby, and Carr on June 11. Two sources familiar with the incident - which allegedly involved arguing and Patton smacking Carr's vehicle and then grabbing Carr's arm - said it was more likely a dispute over driving behavior.

But there remains a misdemeanor assault charge pending against Patton, filed by Carr the day after the dust-up. Though police were called, they did not witness the altercation, so Carr went to a magistrate the next day and filled out a complaint, records show. Police said the magistrate called the officer who went to the scene, the officer supported Carr's version of events, and the magistrate issued a warrant for Patton.

Patton was arrested July 6. The case was first set for Sept. 16 and has been continued by prosecutors to Nov. 16, even though the complaining witness is now dead.

Carr was a former air traffic controller who worked for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington. Cabrera said she had been dating Carr for more than five years.

She said Carr was lying on the sofa, watching the game, when the man walked in, put the gun to the back of Carr's head, and began asking whether anyone else was in the house and whether there were any guns in the house. He was told no, Cabrera said.

Then the man ordered Carr and Cabrera to lie face-down on the floor and used plastic zip ties to tie their hands behind their backs, Cabrera said.

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