A hearing in the high-profile slaying of a Fairfax County girl killed near her mosque was temporarily suspended Friday after her father yelled at the defendant and her mother hurled a shoe at him across the courtroom.
The loud outburst occurred as the preliminary hearing for 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres was set to begin before a courtroom packed with roughly 250 supporters of the victim, 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen.
"You killed my daughter!" Mohmoud Hassanen yelled across the courtroom at Torres and then lunged in the direction of the defendant, who was about 30 feet away.
As sheriff's deputies and family members rushed to restrain him, Sawsan Gazzar, the victim's mother, rose and yelled "I kill you!" She then threw a shoe toward Torres that missed him.
Sheriff's deputies rushed both the judge and defendant out of the courtroom and forcefully removed Mohmoud Hassanen, as Nabra's supporters hurled insults at the deputies and Torres.
Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Kimberly J. Daniel ordered the courtroom cleared.
When the hearing resumed an hour later with only attorneys, the defendant and Nabra's family members present, Torres waived the preliminary hearing on his murder charge. The case now goes before a Fairfax County grand jury, which will decide whether to indict Torres.
The chaotic scene in the courtroom showed that the grief that followed Nabra's brutal slaying in June is still raw, particularly among members of the local Muslim community. The killing drew national attention, and vigils were held for her in locations across the country.
Nabra was walking to her mosque when she was abducted and slain. Nabra's family and some supporters say she was targeted because she was Muslim, but Fairfax County prosecutor Raymond F. Morrogh said after the hearing that investigators have turned up no evidence of a hate crime.
"It really sent a shock wave through the Muslim community," Maura Yasin, a supporter of the victim said outside the courthouse after the hearing. "I didn't want my 16-year-old going out at night. We felt a target was on the back of the Muslim community."
Many of Nabra's supporters wore white T-shirts that read "Justice for Nabra" and carried signs outside the courtroom that featured images of her in a hijab. In chants, they demanded justice in her case.
Morrogh said that additional charges could be filed against Torres and that he has not ruled out a capital case.
The incident began when Nabra, of Reston, Va., and a group of up to 15 teens were returning to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling after eating a meal at McDonald's around 3:40 a.m. on June 18 during the holy month of Ramadan, police said. Pre-dawn meals are a popular way for young people to celebrate Ramadan at the mosque.
As the group walked down Dranesville Road, Torres approached in a red Pontiac and got into a verbal altercation with a teen on a bike, police said. Torres then drove his car over the curb and across a grassy area, chasing the teens.
Torres, a construction worker, caught up with the group a short time later in a parking lot, police said. They said he got out of his car and chased the teens with a baseball bat, allegedly hitting Nabra.
The teens scattered, and one looked back and saw Torres standing over Nabra as she lay on the ground, according to a search warrant recently unsealed in the case. None of the teens saw the South Lakes High School student again.
Fairfax County police said Torres then put Nabra in his car and took her to Loudoun County, where he assaulted her again, killed her and dumped her body in a pond adjacent to the apartment complex where he lived in Sterling.
Torres returned to the scene where Nabra was abducted, and his car was spotted by one of the teens in the group, according to the search warrant.
When a police officer approached the Pontiac and asked Torres to get out, he was not wearing shoes or a shirt, detectives wrote in the search warrant. The officers also discovered blood on the passenger-side door and back seat. Torres was taken into custody around 5:15 a.m., police said.
He later admitted his role in Nabra's killing and led police to her body, according to the search warrant. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed a detainer on Torres, meaning they are interested in possible future deportation proceedings. He is a native of El Salvador.
Torres's background of violence also has been a focus of the investigation. A woman in Loudoun County reported Torres had punched, choked and sexually assaulted her a week before Nabra's killing, according to two people familiar with her account. But the woman declined to pursue charges.
Detectives with the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office also filed a search warrant that was recently unsealed that sought Torres's high school records for clues to why he might have targeted Nabra.
The search warrant states Torres had violent incidents while at Park View and Potomac Falls high schools in Loudoun. A relative of Torres said he had a 4-year-old child.
Mohmoud Hassanen and his wife did not discuss the courtroom outburst after the hearing, but the father said the family has endured a nightmare.
"I don't want this to happen to anybody," he said. "I love my daughter very much."