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Released from jail at height of pandemic, Virginia rape suspect allegedly killed his accuser

Ibrahim Bouaichi then shot himself as police closed in Wednesday, leaving him in critical condition

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The incident in Karla Dominguez’s apartment last October was violent, and it was not consensual, she testified in Alexandria District Court in December. The man she accused was indicted on charges including rape, strangulation and abduction and jailed without bond in Alexandria.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Ibrahim E. Bouaichi’s lawyers argued that the virus was a danger to both inmates and their attorneys, and that Bouaichi should be freed awaiting trial. On April 9, over the objections of an Alexandria prosecutor, Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released Bouaichi on $25,000 bond, with the condition that he only leave his Maryland home to meet with his lawyers or pretrial services officials.

On July 29, Alexandria police say, Bouaichi, 33, returned to Alexandria and shot and killed Dominguez outside her apartment in the city’s West End.

When police couldn’t find Bouaichi after the slaying, they issued a video news release asking for the public’s help in locating him, declaring him “armed and dangerous.” Then on Wednesday morning, federal marshals and Alexandria police spotted Bouaichi in Prince George’s County and pursued him, causing Bouaichi to crash, authorities said. When the police went to arrest Bouaichi, they found he had apparently shot himself. He was reported to be in grave condition Thursday.

Bouaichi’s release from jail and the slaying of Dominguez represent a tragic side effect of the pandemic. As the coronavirus erupted in America, civil liberties advocates called for the release of large numbers of prisoners from jails and prisons in order to keep them from being infected and possibly dying in necessarily confined spaces.

In Alexandria, Bouaichi’s lawyers said in their motion for bond that “social distancing and proper disinfecting measures are impossible while incarcerated.… Simply put, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a jail is exceedingly obvious.” The lawyers, Manuel Leiva and Frank Salvato, also noted the risk for themselves in the jail, saying that lawyers seeking a contact visit would “also expose themselves to contaminated air and surfaces.”

Leiva and Salvato also claimed that the Alexandria jail had “imposed severe restrictions on visitation since the Covid-19 outbreak,” that all contact visits (meaning no glass or separation between visitor and inmate) were stopped and that the lawyers could only have video conference sessions lasting 30 minutes maximum. A trial date was set for Bouaichi, and his lawyers said he was “being effectively deprived of legal counsel.”

Alexandria jail officials responded that they do allow contact visits for attorneys upon request, and have accommodated several requests. “We have also provided video conferences in excess of 30 minutes,” jail spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said. “However, we do not have any record of Mr. Leiva or his co-counsel requesting a face-to-face visit with Ibrahim Bouaichi after the protocols went into effect in late March.”

Bertsch noted that the jail implemented increased cleaning and health screening in early March “and there were no cases of covid-19 at the jail during their client’s incarceration.”

Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan L. Porter said Leiva and Salvato filed their motion on April 8 and Clark set the hearing for the next day, so prosecutors did not file a written response. Porter noted that under Virginia law, those charged with certain violent crimes such as rape are presumed to be a danger and are not eligible for bond.

“We strenuously argued that the presumption” against bond, Porter said, “had not been overcome, given the facts of the case and the violent nature of the alleged offense.” He declined to provide details of the attack because both the rape and murder cases against Bouaichi are pending.

Judge Dawkins retired in June, after serving 12 years as a circuit court judge and 14 years before that on the juvenile and domestic relations court. He did not respond to a request for comment. Judges typically are prohibited from commenting on pending cases.

Very little information is available about Dominguez, who police said was a native of Venezuela and did not have family in this country. A GoFundMe account was launched after she was killed, to help pay for her funeral, but the organizer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Dominguez lived on South Greenmount Drive, in the Town Square at Mark Center Apartments. Alexandria police said they received a report of gunshots on July 29, and at 6:20 a.m. they found Dominguez outside her apartment, dead of multiple wounds to the upper body.

Police obtained a murder warrant for Bouaichi two days later, but could not find him until Wednesday.

In October, Dominguez called police and alleged she had been sexually assaulted by Bouaichi on Oct. 10.

Bouaichi was charged with six felonies — rape, sodomy, strangulation, abduction, burglary and malicious wounding — and turned himself in on Oct. 21. He was held without bond. At a preliminary hearing before Alexandria General District Court Chief Judge Donald M. Haddock in December, prosecutors dismissed the rape and malicious wounding charges, and Haddock found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury. He denied a request to allow Bouaichi to post bond.

The grand jury indicted Bouaichi on five charges: rape, sodomy, strangulation, abduction and burglary. A trial date was set for March 30, and Leiva and Salvato’s bond motion indicates they were preparing for trial, until the courts shut down in March due to the coronavirus and trials were postponed. “The two individuals involved were boyfriend/girlfriend,” the lawyers wrote, “and there is a substantial defense here.”

Alexandria police declined to provide any details of the alleged criminal assault from October.

Leiva and Salvato said in a statement they were “certainly saddened by the tragedy both families have suffered here.” The lawyers said they “were looking forward to trial. Unfortunately the pandemic continued the trial date by several months and we didn’t get the chance to put forth our case.”

After his release from the Alexandria jail, Bouaichi next encountered police in Greenbelt. Greenbelt police said that shortly before midnight on May 8, they received a holdup alarm from a Wendy’s restaurant. Greenbelt police spokesman George Mathews said officers arrived to find no robbery, but instead a motorist in the drive-through acting strangely.

Mathews said the driver was uncooperative, “may have been intoxicated, and wouldn’t communicate with the officers. He then put his vehicle in drive and rammed the K-9 officer’s vehicle,” which an officer and a police dog were sitting in. The officers eventually took him into custody, at which point Bouaichi reported having a medical issue. He was taken to a hospital, and eventually to the Prince George’s jail, where he was served multiple charges: two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, harming a law enforcement dog, resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated and multiple traffic charges.

Maryland court records indicate Bouaichi was released from jail on May 11. Porter said Alexandria officials were not notified of the charges in Prince George’s County or they would have sought to revoke Bouaichi’s bond.