Chander Matta was portrayed in court yesterday as a systematic killer who had sex with prostitutes he picked up in downtown Washington, then attacked them from behind as they dressed, striking them on the head, putting a plastic bag over their faces and knotting cord around their necks.
According to Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Arthur Karp, Matta left two of the bodies on his bathroom floor while he went off to work.
As he persuaded Arlington District Court Judge Francis E. Thomas to continue holding Matta without bond, Karp described how the 21-year-old Arlington man is believed to have killed two of the women in the basement of his parents' home and a third in her Arlington apartment, all in 36 hours on Memorial Day weekend.
Other details of the killings were disclosed in a police affidavit made public yesterday.
Matta has been formally charged only with the death of Sherry K. Larman, 26. But police say they believe he also is responsible for the deaths of Jodie Marie Phillips, 16, and Sandra Rene Johnson, 20. A grand jury will be asked Monday to indict him in their deaths.
Although not all of the details matched in all three crimes, Karp painted Matta as a killer who worked with clockwork regularity. From Karp's statements and the affidavit, this story emerged:
The first killing took place on a Friday afternoon. Matta drove his father's car to a section of downtown referred to as "the stroll," where he picked up Larman. Karp said Matta took Larman to his family's modest home in South Arlington, where he had sex with her.
As she dressed to leave, Matta attacked Larman from behind. She was struck on the head with an object that left a cut shaped like a half moon. At some point a gray plastic trash bag was put over her head, tied with a cord around her neck.
Then, apparently unconcerned about the body's being discovered because his parents and teenage brother had gone away for the holiday, Matta went off to his evening job. Her body remained on the floor of his bathroom until he got home later that night.
Matta then loaded Larman's body into his car and drove it to a parking garage on South Highland Street in Arlington.
Larman was found lying on her stomach, naked except for her black panties. An autopsy showed that she died of asphyxiation.
Later that evening, Karp said, Matta returned to the stroll.
"Having come to the conclusion that it was quite pleasurable to do, he went back downtown and picked up Jodie Phillips," Karp said.
Matta allegedly repeated the pattern established in Larman's murder: He brought Phillips to his home, had sex with her -- reportedly paying her $100 -- then attacked her from behind as she prepared to leave late Saturday night.
Once again, he left the body in the house while he routinely went to work and disposed of it after returning home, Karp said.
Phillips's body was dumped on a grassy knoll in Alexandria, near an office complex.
Like Larman, Phillips was found with her hands bound in front of her. Phillips was clothed. A dish towel had been shoved in her mouth.
Once again, a plastic bag was over her head and a cord had been knotted around her throat. She also died of asphyxiation.
On his next trip to the stroll later Saturday, Matta allegedly picked up Sandra Rene Johnson. He drove her to her South Arlington apartment.
A plastic bag lay next to Johnson's bruised body when it was found several hours later, according to the police affidavit. She had been hit on the head. A bloody footprint on kitchen floor matched a shoe found in Matta's home. Johnson also had been asphyxiated.
Five hundred dollars in cash was missing from Johnson's apartment, Karp said. Shortly after her death, Matta deposited $750 in his bank account and bought a $400 money order.
A Visa credit card receipt, bearing the name of Jagjit S. Matta, Chander Matta's father, was found in the plastic bag around Phillips's neck. It led police to Matta.
During yesterday's hearing, Matta's attorney, Arthur M. Reynolds, asked the judge to release Matta on bond, saying, "There is no reason to believe that he would flee or that he represents a danger to the community."
Reynolds argued that statements police obtained from Matta about his role in the killings were coerced. He said he will file a motion to have them excluded from Matta's trial.
Reynolds also said police told Matta he did not need a lawyer during questioning, even though he asked repeatedly for one.
Karp successfully argued that Matta is a danger to the community. "As far as we can tell, the only thing that stopped these murders was the return of his parents," Karp said. "We have no reason to believe that if he were out on the street, he wouldn't say, 'That was fun, I'll do it again.' "