FAIRFAX, Virginia — Authorities suspect Nabra Hassanen may have been raped before she was murdered on Sunday, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.
The killing of Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl, sent shockwaves through the country after a recent string of violent attacks on Muslims and racial minorities. Police said they are not investigating her death as a hate crime.
Hassanen’s body was found in a pond in Sterling, Virginia, hours after Darwin Martinez Torres allegedly struck her with a baseball bat, took her away, and killed her. One source said police found a woman’s pair of underwear near Hassanen’s body, and investigators are awaiting test results from vaginal swabs.
When asked if Hassanen was raped, Fairfax County Police Department Lt. Col. Deputy Chief of Police Tom Ryan said at a Monday press conference: “There was an assault that occurred in Fairfax County and we had another assault that occurred in Loudoun County.”
Torres, 22, is in Fairfax County jail custody for the attack on Hassanen. Torres, a national of El Salvador, entered the United States illegally, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Carissa Cutrell told The Daily Beast. Cutrell said ICE has asked to take custody of Torres after he’s released from Fairfax County jail.
“It appears that the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence,” Fairfax County police spokeswoman Julie Parker said Monday. She added the case may be potentially prosecuted in Loudoun County “due to elements of the various crimes and where they occurred.”
According to a preliminary investigation, sources said, Hassanen and a group of about 15 Muslim teenagers were walking and riding bikes back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling after leaving a nearby fast food restaurant at about 3:40 a.m. on Sunday.
One boy in the group began arguing with Torres, the sources said, before one of the teens allegedly threw a drink at Torres’ vehicle.
Torres drove his vehicle onto the curb as the teens scattered, the sources said. Witnesses told police that Torres chased part of the group, including Hassanen, with a metal baseball bat into a nearby McDonalds parking lot.
Hassanen reportedly tripped over her abaya, which is when Torres caught up with her and struck her with the bat in the head, rendering her unconscious. Torres then allegedly dragged her body to his vehicle and drove to another location where police suspect he raped her.
A source close to the investigation said Hassanen may have regained consciousness and resisted during the sexual assault before Torres struck her again. Autopsy results showed that Hassanen suffered blunt force trauma to the upper body.
Hassanen’s body was later found in a pond.
The Washington Post reported Hassanen was the first born of four daughters, a diligent and popular student who just finished 10th grade. The Hassanen family lived in a modest apartment near Washington, D.C., usually overflowing with friends and laughter.
“It’s a family where if you’re feeling down and you need to laugh, this is where you go,” Samar Ali, 26, who grew up in the Hassanens' apartment complex told the Post.
“Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?” her mother said to the Post.