The death of a Muslim teen who was assaulted after she left a mosque early Sunday morning is not being investigated as a hate crime.
Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, appeared in court on Monday to face a murder charge after he got into a dispute with the 17-year-old Nabra Hussein and a group of her friends in Sterling, North Virginia, the Fairfax County Police Department said.
Martinez got out of the car and assaulted the girl, according to police, who found a body in a pond in Sterling about 25 miles outside of Washington DC.
Detectives told her mother Hussein was beaten by a metal baseball bat, the Washington Post reported.
Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, appeared in court on Monday to face a murder charge after Nabra Hussein was found dead in a pond. Police are not investigating her death as a hate crime
Martinez got out of the car and assaulted the girl after she left the mosque for a breakfast break, according to police, who found a body in a pond in Sterling (above, general view)
Hussein and her friends were dressed in abayas, or robe-like dresses worn by some Muslim women, when they left All Dulles Area Muslim Society for a breakfast break during an all-night prayer session on Sunday, prompting fears that the victim was targeted because of her faith.
Hussein didn’t usually opt for traditional Muslim clothes, but her mother Sawsan Gazzar gave her an abaya to wear on Saturday night, according to the Washington Post.
According to Gazzar, a detective said Hussein tripped over the robe and fell just before the man struck her.
‘I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim,’ Gazzar said. ‘Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?’
But Fairfax police said in a statement on Monday morning that they were not investigating the murder as a hate crime.
Fairfax County Police Spokesman Don Gotthardt told AP that while the investigation remains in its early stages and things could change, detectives have so far found no indication of a link ‘between the victim’s faith or religious beliefs or the mosque and the crime itself.’
Hussein and her friends were going for a meal at a nearby IHOP before starting their fasts at sunrise during the holy month of Ramadan. They got into a dispute with a man who assaulted Hussein, police said
According to statements from police and the mosque, the girl and her friends were walking back to the mosque from a McDonald’s between 3 and 4 a.m. Sunday when a man drove up.
They got into a dispute with a man in a car, who then stepped out and assaulted Hussein, police said.
The 17-year-old was separated from her friends, who ran back to the mosque before realizing Hussein had disappeared, WRC-TV reported.
During an intense search for the girl, an officer stopped a car being driven suspiciously on Sunday and the driver, later identified as Martinez Torres was taken into custody, police said.
WRC-TV reported that Martinez Torres was questioned near the scene of the attack, and led officers several miles away to a retention pond across the street from his apartment complex where a female body was found at about 3 p.m. Sunday.
Police believe the body belongs to Hussein, but a chief medical examiner’s office will confirm the identity and cause of death.
‘What investigators told the father and the mother, he hit her in the head and put her in the car and he threw her in the water,’ said family friend and spokesperson Abas Sherif.
It was not immediately clear whether Martinez had a lawyer and whether he had entered a plea to the charge of second-degree murder.
The county prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to questions.
The 17-year-old was separated from her friends, who ran back to the mosque (file photo above) and notified authorities at around 4am
The mosque issued a statement saying: ‘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.’ It said the society was enlisting licensed counselors to assist anyone in need.
‘I can’t think of a worse instance to occur than the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day as the father of a 17-year-old myself,’ Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman said.
A statement by Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates, said: ‘We urge both local and federal authorities to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into all possible motives for this gruesome crime.’
An online fundraiser for Hussein’s family has already raised more than $155,000.
The incident sent shock waves through Muslim communities, just three weeks after a man who launched an anti-Muslim tirade against two girls on a Portland light rail train fatally stabbed two men who intervened.
In London, a man drove a van into a crowd of people leaving late-night prayers at two mosques on Sunday.