Fairfax County prosecutors will pursue the death penalty against the man accused in the high-profile killing of a 17-year-old Muslim girl, who was abducted as she walked to her mosque over the summer, authorities said.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh (D) made the announcement Monday after a Fairfax County grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres for capital murder, rape and other charges in connection with the slaying of Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Va.
“You conform the charges to what the evidence will show,” Morrogh said. “It is my intention to seek the death penalty.”
Morrogh declined to discuss the evidence that led to the indictments since the case is pending, but it was the first time that authorities indicated that they believed Nabra was sexually assaulted in the June 18 attack.
In addition to the rape charge, Torres is accused of abducting Nabra with intent to defile and object sexual penetration.
Fairfax County’s chief public defender, Dawn Butorac, who is representing Torres, declined to comment. Nabra’s family also did not immediately return a phone call.
Nabra’s killing sparked vigils from coast to coast and spurred concerns that she was targeted because of her faith. Police and prosecutors have said they turned up no evidence that her slaying was a hate crime.
The indictments come after a tense preliminary hearing in the case on Friday attended by about 250 of her supporters. The hearing was temporarily delayed after Nabra’s father yelled, “You killed my daughter!” and lunged toward Torres. The girl’s mother also threw a shoe in the suspect’s direction.
When the proceedings resumed about an hour later, Torres waived the hearing, during which prosecutors would have presented evidence they have collected against the defendant. That sent the case to the grand jury.
After the hearing, dozens of Nabra’s supporters rallied outside the Fairfax County courthouse. Many wore white “Justice for Nabra” T-shirts and held signs with a photo of her in a hijab. Some said they believe her killing was a hate crime.
Fairfax County police said the incident began about 3:40 a.m. on June 18, when police said Torres drove up to Nabra and a group of up to 15 teens as they were returning to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling following a meal.
It is a common practice at the mosque for young people to mark Ramadan by going out for a bite to eat in the early morning hours before the holy month’s fasts begin.
Torres got into an argument with a teen on a bike, police said.
Torres then drove his red Pontiac over a curb and chased the teens over a grassy area as they fled, police said. They said Torres caught up with the group in a nearby parking lot and then got out and chased them with a baseball bat.
A search warrant filed in the case said one of the teens glanced back and saw Torres standing over Nabra, who was lying on the ground. At some point, Torres hit Nabra with the bat and then loaded her into his car, police said.
He drove Nabra to Loudoun County, where he assaulted her again, killed her and then dumped her body in a pond near his Sterling apartment complex, police said.
Torres then returned to the scene of the abduction on Dranesville Road in Burke, where a teen who was with Nabra alerted police and Torres was stopped, according to the search warrant.
Torres, who was not wearing shoes or a shirt, was taken into custody at about 5:15 a.m. after police found blood stains on the door of his car and on the back seat, according to the search warrant.
Torres later admitted his role in Nabra’s slaying and led detectives to her body, according to the search warrant.
A week before Nabra’s killing, a woman reported to Loudoun County authorities that Torres had sexually assaulted her, said people familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But she ultimately declined to pursue charges.
A Fairfax County judge is scheduled to set a trial date for Torres on Thursday.
Torres's trial will be the first death penalty case in Fairfax County since 2011, when a Fairfax County jury convicted Mark E. Lawlor of bludgeoning Genevieve Orange to death in her apartment in the Seven Corners area in 2008.
Prince William County prosecutors are pursuing a capital murder case against Ronald W. Hamilton, a Pentagon information technology specialist accused in 2016 of fatally shooting his wife during an incident at their Woodbridge home and then killing a responding rookie police officer.