Michael Charles Satcher was indicted on charges of capital murder, rape and robbery yesterday by an Arlington grand jury in the stabbing death last March of Anne Elizabeth Borghesani on a county bike path.
After the indictments were handed up, Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Helen F. Fahey said she probably will seek the death penalty in the case.
Borghesani, a 23-year-old paralegal, was beaten, raped and stabbed repeatedly in the North Highland section of Arlington, near the garden apartment she shared with two roommates.
Satcher, 22, a furniture mover from Southeast Washington jailed in connection with two assaults on another Arlington bike path in August, was implicated in the Borghesani slaying by results from DNA tests last month. Those tests showed a strong genetic match between him and the man who killed Borghesani, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Arthur Karp.
Borghesani's killing on the busy path frequented by cyclists, joggers and other pedestrians shocked nearby neighborhoods and caused area women to take extra safety precautions.
Karp said that because of the savage nature of the Borghesani killing, investigators and prosecutors are relieved to have charged a suspect in the crime.
"It was a very brutal case," he said. "We did not want whoever did it to be roaming around the streets of Arlington."
At the time of her slaying, Borghesani was on her way to a birthday party thrown for her by friends. Her body, found by those friends the next morning, was left in the stairwell of an office building next to the bike path.
Satcher's court-appointed attorney, John C. Youngs, said his client maintains his innocence in the Borghesani slaying, as well as in two assaults of women joggers on a South Arlington bike path. He declined to comment further.
Prosecutors say it was the two assaults, which bore similarities to the attacks on Borghesani and at least one other woman on the Custis trail in March, that led police to Satcher as a suspect in the Borghesani slaying.
The two women attacked in August on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail testified in court that they were dragged at knifepoint off the path into nearby brush.
At the time of Satcher's arrest, a motorcycle patrol officer said he saw him closely following a woman jogger on another part of the bike trail. Concealed in a T-shirt wrapped around Satcher's hand was a hunting knife, the officer said in court in September. Satcher was arrested and charged with two counts of abduction. A trial on those charges is scheduled for January.
Since his arrest in August, Satcher has been held in the Arlington County jail.
Police took hair, saliva and blood samples from Satcher after his arrest on the abduction charges. Those samples were compared with evidence collected at the Borghesani murder scene five months earlier.
Scientists at the Northern Virginia Forensic Lab in Richmond initially found a strong similarity in blood type between Satcher and Borghesani's assailant. Examinations of hair samples later appeared to contradict that evidence.
Prosecutors said the DNA test results, which are considered by forensic experts to be among the most conclusive form of evidence placing an individual at a crime scene, implicate Satcher with as much certainty as is possible in forensic science. DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is the basic genetic material found in cells of every living organism. Scientists believe that every individual, with the exception of identical twins, has a unique DNA fingerprint, visible in microscopic patterns in body fluids or tissue.
Prosecutors said yesterday they are awaiting a final report that will quantify the degree of probability that Satcher and the man who killed Borghesani are the same person.
Karp said yesterday that based on the information prosecutors have, there is "a very high probability" that Satcher was Borghesani's assailant.
Borghesani's was the first of nine homicides so far this year in Arlington. In 1989, there was one.
Borghesani's killing frightened residents of an area that had been considered a safe section of the county. Young working women, many like Borghesani, fresh out of school and new to the Washington area, altered their routines after the slaying, relying on taxicabs and male escorts to get around at night.
"The bike path is still much more deserted than it used to be," said Marguerite Arnold, a resident of the Fort Bennett Apartments, where Borghesani lived. "Now women walk in twos or threes up the bike path together."
For many, Arnold said, even the knowledge that the police have charged a suspect in the crime has not allayed their fears.
"It makes me feel safer that they've identified someone," she said, "but it's not really all that comforting when you consider how prevalent rapes and other violence against women are."
Borghesani's parents, Roger and Betty Borghesani, of Lexington, Mass., could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Borghesani's aunt, who lives in the Washington area and does not want her name used, said, "Our family feels very strongly that it's good news he's off the street. As far as our loss goes, Anne's just never going to be replaced. Even if he's electrocuted, it's not going to bring Anne back."
Under Virginia law, a jury can sentence a convicted murderer to death if the murder occurred during the commission of a rape or armed robbery. Satcher was charged with both offenses yesterday.