A Prince George's County man said yesterday that he found his son's missing car Saturday with his son's body inside, two days after trying to convince police that the teenager hadn't just taken off.
Maher Elmaghraby said he reported his 18-year-old son, Mohamed, missing Thursday evening after trying to reach him on his cell phone for several hours.
Mohamed Elmaghraby, who just graduated from high school, wasn't a forgetful or disrespectful teenager, said his father, who added that he and his son were close and worked together every weekend at a District hotel. "I know my son," said Maher Elmaghraby, 49. "I was calling and calling and calling. He never called. . . . At that time, I knew something was wrong."
Over the next two days, Elmaghraby said, he and his family's concerns were dismissed repeatedly by the Prince George's County Police Department, even after they passed along a tip they received Friday night that the teenager's 1998 gray Cadillac might be near the Deanwood Metro Station in the District.
On Saturday, Maher Elmaghraby, his wife, her sister and her sister's husband went to search the unfamiliar Southeast Washington neighborhood themselves and found the car. Elmaghraby said they were afraid to touch the car or look through its tinted window, so they called D.C. police. An officer opened a car door and discovered the teenager's body, shot once in the head and once in the leg, family members said.
"If we didn't find him that day, he would never have been found," said Hugo Williams, Maher Elmaghraby's brother-in-law.
Yesterday, D.C. police confirmed that Mohamed Elmaghraby's body had been discovered on Nash Street in Deanwood and would not discuss the case further.
Prince George's police did not respond to an e-mail request for information about the case. Cpl. Clinton Copeland said a response probably would come today.
Yesterday, a dozen family members stood under a tree at the D.C. morgue, taking turns viewing the teenager's body. Teary-eyed and weary, they criticized police, saying that they were forced to do their own detective work. They detailed a series of dismissals that began with the first Prince George's police officer who arrived at the family's Glenn Dale home late Thursday and told them that Mohamed was "probably in California by now," Elmaghraby recalled. Another officer told them Friday night that reporting the teenager's car as stolen might cause him to have a police record.
"I said, 'My son is dead, so go ahead and find the car,' " Elmaghraby said.
He said the family was canvassing the Glenn Dale neighborhood Friday night, trying to find someone who knew where he was, when a teenager told them where the car might be. At that point, the family began dealing with the D.C. police. Williams said the family first stopped Saturday at the 6th Police District substation to report Mohamed Elmaghraby missing again and to pass along the tip.
Williams said that officers at the station began taking information to create a missing-person poster but that the family was determined to move more quickly. After 30 minutes of riding along Minnesota Avenue SE, he said, Jessie Elmaghraby, the teenager's mother, spotted the car, a gift from his father for getting his license.
Relatives said they did not know who killed Mohamed Elmaghraby or why. They said the teenager's keys were missing, and they feared that the people involved have access to their homes.
Mohamed Elmaghraby recently graduated from Parkdale High School in Riverdale. He planned to attend Prince George's Community College. "He was a good kid. He was going to be an engineer," his father said.
But the teenager might well have followed in his father's footsteps and could have gone far in the hotel industry, said Brad Michaels, the supervisor of the Wyndham City Center hotel restaurant in Northwest, where the father and son worked as hosts.
"I don't think I ever saw him get angry or upset at anything. He takes after his father," said Michaels, who has worked with the elder Elmaghraby for 13 years. "His father has not so much as called off sick. That kind of work ethic is taught. So Mohamed learned very well.
"This is not anything that you would expect. And it's unfortunate, the timing, today being what it is," Michaels said, noting that it was Father's Day.