Per Buzz Feed, A man has been charged with murder after police found the body believed to be that of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, who went missing after leaving a mosque this weekend. Police said they currently had no information to indicate that this was a hate crime.
Police in Fairfax, Virginia, believe they have found the body of a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was reported missing early Sunday after leaving a mosque with a group of friends.
Shortly after finding the remains Sunday afternoon, officers arrested 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres and charged him with murder in connection to the case.
The teen was identified as Nabra Hassanen by Virginia Congressman Don Beyer, who said in a tweet, “Our hearts break for the family, friends and fellow congregants of Nabra Hassanen.”
Mosque officials said she and her friends were coming back from eating during a break from Ramadan prayers when a car pulled up and a man with a baseball bat jumped out and started swinging at the group of girls.
The teens were walking on Dranesville Road toward the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia, at around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday after grabbing breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s before beginning their fast at sunrise for Ramadan, police and mosque officials said.
Torres was at the McDonald’s eating at the same time Yufra Abdelmuid, a family friend of Hassanen’s and who knows the other teens in the group, told BuzzFeed News on Monday.
The 21-year-old said Hassanen is best friends with her little sister and described the North Virginian Nubian community as “family.” She has been helping Hassenan’s father plan the funeral, which will be this week.
After the group finished, they started walking back and that’s when a motorist confronted them and they got into an altercation, Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokesperson for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office, told BuzzFeed News. Police believed that Torres got out of his car and assaulted Hassanen. “Her friends could not find her and police were called to help,” Fairfax County police said.
Abdelmuid said she was with the distraught teens, whose ages range from 13-16, when they were giving their statements to police detailing how Hassanen got separated during the attack.
“He was at the McDonald’s eating at the same time and he followed them in his car,” said Abdelmuid, relaying what the other teens witnessed. “He threw a beer bottle at them and they started running to the bowling parking lot nearby and he got out of his car with a bat and hit her over the head.”
The girls were all wearing traditional Muslim clothing called abayas and “definitely stood out,” she added.
While it was evident that the teens were Muslim, police on Monday tweeted “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.”
However, when contacted by BuzzFeed News later, police spokesperson Don Gotthardt said that the nature of the investigation wasn’t “as definitive” as the tweet made it out to be. Gotthardt said that their tweet could have been “crafted a little better” and could have left some “wiggle room” about the nature of the investigation.
He said that police currently do not have information indicating a “correlation between the victim’s faith and the crime itself.” However, he added that if there was any indication into a “future possible connection to her religion” as the investigation progressed, then police would “certainly” look into it.
Nabra’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar, told thw Washington Post, “I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim.”
“Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?” she asked.
According to accounts from police and mosque officials, all of the teens except for one fled the scene. Members from the community found the group and directed them to the ADAMS Center, which immediately notified officials at around 4 a.m., Rizwan Jaka, a board member at ADAMS, said in a statement.
“They all dispersed after the incident and when they met back up they realized she was missing,” Kowalski said.
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event. It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth,” the center’s statement said.