Police have found the remains of a missing 17-year-old Muslim girl who was assaulted and abducted early Sunday as she and a group of friends left late-night prayer at a mosque in Fairfax County, Va.
The body of Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Va., was found around 3 p.m. Sunday, June 18, in a pond just 2 miles from where she was confronted by her suspected killer, according to NBC News Washington. Authorities have since charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres with Hassanen’s murder.
Police spokeswoman Tawny Wright said the teen was walking home from late-night prayer at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center with a group of friends when she got into an altercation with a man who had approached them in a car. The man, later identified as Torres, got out of his car and assaulted the girl, after which she became separated from her friends as they fled.
Hassanen was reported missing around 4 a.m., as her friends were unable to find her after the dispute.
“Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS’ personnel notified both Loudon County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl,” the local mosque said in a statement Sunday. “The search continued until around 3 p.m. when the body of a female was found in a pond in Sterling.”
The Guardian reported that the mosque, one of the biggest in northern Virginia, had been holding extra late-night prayer during the last 10 days of Ramadan and that Hassanen was among four or five teens who had left the center early that morning. The mosque said it’s not uncommon for worshipers to walk home after dark in what was believed to be a safe neighborhood.
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” mosque said. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”
Martinez Torres was arrested during the police search after an officer spotted him driving suspiciously in the area, NBC News Washington reported. Police said a baseball bat also was recovered but did not provide specifics on where exactly it was found.
Authorities are still unsure of the motivation for the crime and aren’t treating it as a hate-related killing at this time.
“I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she is Muslim,” the teen’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar, told The Washington Post. “Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”
Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer who was at the mosque with his wife around the same time as Hassanen, told the newspaper that the teen’s death has sent shock waves through the Muslim community, leaving many in fear.
“People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,” Iftikahar said.
Hassanen’s murder is just the latest in a number of recent attacks against Muslims. On Monday, June 19, nearly 10 people were injured after a van drove into a crowd of worshipers leaving a mosque in Finsbury Park in London.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam sent his regards to the teen’s family Sunday, adding that he and his wife were “deeply disturbed” by the assault and murder.
“There is absolutely no place for this kind of violence in our Commonwealth,” Northam said in a statement. “Every Virginian should feel safe and welcome in our communities, and no parent should ever have to experience such a heartbreaking tragedy.
“As the police investigation continues, I urge all Virginians to keep Nabra’s friends and family in their hearts.”