“Essentially, he was beaten to death,” Chantel Njiwaj said at a preliminary hearing in district court.
The brutality and intensity of Julio Patricio Salazar’s death was evidence, prosecutors successfully argued, of the malice of his alleged killer — 27-year-old Michael Nash.
It was “unprovoked and unnecessary,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Frank Frio told a judge. “Julio Patricio Salazar was trying to help this screaming woman who was being sexually assaulted.”
Hundreds of strangers have been moved by the fatal act of kindness and donated money to Salazar’s family, who promised to give the funds to organizations fighting sexual violence in Virginia and his home country of Bolivia.
Defense attorney Damon Colbert said Nash “was not in his right mind” and had no intent to kill Salazar, 54. “This man was out of his mind,” he said.
Judge Jason Rucker found probable cause to move the case against Nash to circuit court. He is charged with first-degree murder, abduction with intent to defile, forced sodomy and object penetration.
The woman Salazar tried to help was Nash’s then-girlfriend, who testified that he was “strange that day.”
“It was like he wasn’t the same person,” she said.
The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual assault.
They had been walking around Arlington on Oct. 18 when he began arguing with her about the science fiction she was reading on her phone, she said.
“He said that we’re supposed to die, that he has to kill me,” she said.
The dispute was loud enough to attract police, but they were interviewed separately and allowed to leave together. By evening, they ended up on South George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike, on the edge of a poorly lit park.
“It started getting out of control,” the woman testified. “I wanted to just get away.” She began walking ahead of Nash. He pursued her, she said, and pushed her so she fell face first on the sidewalk. She testified that he began beating her, stripping her of her clothing and touching her sexually.
“He just kept hitting me, and I was just yelling and screaming,” she said. When he began taking off her clothes, she said, “I just let him. . .I felt that it was no use” to resist. At one point, she said, he picked her up and threatened to throw her over a railing and into a sewer.
“He hit me in the head a lot of times; I was kind of going in and out,” she added.
Her screams drew the attention of Bradley Flood, who was in his apartment across the street. Salazar was also moved to help. He appeared behind the couple, the woman testified, and Nash began hitting him.
She said Nash used both hands to bash the man’s head into the sidewalk. “He was still yelling at me, that it was my fault,” she said.
That is when Flood came to the scene. Nash threatened to kill him if he called police, Flood testified. He could see blood on one of Nash’s hands. So Flood backed off, getting a passing driver to call the police. When Nash ran off, Flood approached again and found Salazar bleeding heavily and struggling to breathe. Nearby was a naked woman, curled up in a ball and “very distraught.” She told him, “My boyfriend, he snapped.”
In Facebook messages in the days after the attack, according to evidence, she wrote, “Mike is a good guy who needs mental help. . .The guy who chose to involve himself was just a casualty of war.”
Nash was arrested soon after, and in an interview, he told police he and his girlfriend “were on the road to redemption” when he attacked her, Det. Jamey Trainer testified.
“He said he gets short-tempered and very stressed and just snapped,” Trainer said. Nash said he had not been sleeping well and was worried his girlfriend was cheating on him. He told the detectives that neither she nor Salazar deserved what had happened, the detective said.
Nash told them Salazar “was just trying to help her.”