A body was discovered buried in what appeared to be a freshly dug grave in a wooded section of Fairfax County on Thursday, a killing that investigators say may be gang-related, police announced at a news conference.
Detectives exhumed the body in North Hill Park in Hybla Valley on Thursday morning, after receiving a lead Tuesday night that there might be remains at the location, police said. Police officers spent Wednesday searching the park to locate the grave.
An autopsy will determine the identity of the person, but police said the tip came after officers and detectives mounted a spring push to proactively interview people associated with gangs in the county. Police said they have yet to determine the age and sex of the victim.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said there was a “high probability this is gang-related,” but declined to identify the group detectives suspect could have been involved.
“Our great detectives will bring those responsible for this discovery to justice as we continue to pray for this person’s family and friends,” Roessler said.
The grave was discovered in a densely wooded area of the undeveloped North Hill Park. The location was off footpaths that wind through the trees and undergrowth and a short distance from an apartment complex that had gang graffiti sprayed on one building. Residents said they often saw young people hanging out in the area.
Police said they did not recover weapons from the scene and said it was unclear how long the body had been buried.
Police offered few other details about the case and declined to give specifics about the tip or whether the slaying could be linked to other recent gang-related killings in the region.
They also did not say whether the body showed obvious signs of trauma or if gang-related signs were located in the area.
The section of the county where the grave was discovered has been home to MS-13 activity in the past. The gang commonly lures its victims to wooded areas, kills them and buries them.
The gang has been active in recent months. The body of a missing 14-year-old girl from Maryland was found in a creek earlier this month in Prince George’s County, a slaying authorities have tied to MS-13.
Michael E. Miller and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.