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.
The teens were walking on Dranesville Road in Sterling towards the Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center at around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday after grabbing breakfast at a nearby town center before beginning their fast at sunrise for Ramadan, police and mosque officials said.
A motorist confronted the group and they got into an altercation, Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office, told BuzzFeed News.
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, who 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.
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.
“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,” ADAMS said in a statement.
People who attend the center identified the missing teen as Nabra — her last name was not given — and said she and her friends were coming back from eating during a break from Ramadan prayers when a car pulled up and two men with baseball bats jumped out and started swinging at the group.
However, police say they are not searching for a second suspect and are confident that only one man was involved, Fairfax police spokeswoman Tawny Wright, told BuzzFeed News.
While it was evident that the teens were Muslim, detectives have “not gotten any indication that this was motivated by hate or bias,” Wright said.
After starting their search at 4 a.m. on Sunday, officers found the remains of a female in a pond in Sterling, Virginia around 3 p.m. Police said they believe the body they found is Nabra, but have not yet confirmed her identity.
“Our detectives are fairly certain that it is her,” Wright said. “But the Chief Medical Examiner still needs to conduct an autopsy to confirm the identity.”
WRC-TV reported that a baseball bat was recovered in the area, but officials would not confirm that statement.
“We have recovered evidence from the area where we believe she was assaulted,” Wright explained. “We will try and release information about the weapon used as we process it.”
UPDATE: Suspect in Herndon missing teen investigation taken to jail. Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, has been charged with murder. pic.twitter.com/JGBxXmdqUf
— Fairfax Co. Police (@fairfaxpolice) June 18, 2017
Nabra “was a really nice girl” who “always talked with a smile,” said Usman Anwar Khan, who told BuzzFeed News on Facebook Messenger that he worked with Nabra at a McDonald’s in Reston before she went missing.
Muslims across the world are in the final days of celebrating Ramadan, where worshippers pray throughout the day and fast from sunrise-to-sunset. The religious observance ends with a massive feast and celebration, which is supposed to fall next weekend.
Abubakkar Choudry, who has attended prayer service at the center this Ramadan but was not there Saturday night, said the community is “shocked and horrified.”
“This is the first time something has happened like this so close to home,” Choudry told BuzzFeed News, explaining that Nabra and her friends were probably coming back from grabbing food at a nearby IHOP or McDonald’s before attending the next prayer service around 3 a.m.
Choudry explained that Northern Virginia is “very diverse” and that he has “never felt any hate” like this.
“The Muslim community is huge here and mosques are everywhere.”