The suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old Muslim girl was accused of sexual assault a week before her murder and has alleged ties to the MS-13 street gang, according to The Washington Post. Loudoun County Child Protective Services filed a report on June 12, after a woman visited a nearby emergency room saying she was attacked by 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling, Virginia. On June 18, Martinez Torres was arrested for the murder of Nabra Hassanen of Reston, after she went missing following Ramadan celebrations at a local mosque.
The initial attack occurred in the presence of a young child, which is why Child Protective Services was notified. The victim said she had been punched in the stomach and choked, and remained in the hospital overnight because she was afraid of her attacker, whom she claimed was a member of MS-13. She identified Martinez Torres as her attacker, but not by name, and later refused to press charges against him and told CPS she didn’t want to involve law enforcement or social services during a follow up visit. CPS then filed a report with the Louden County Sheriff's Office.
Darwin Martinez Torres is originally from El Salvador and according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials was an undocumented immigrant who entered the United States illegally, as reported by The New York Times. While his status as a member of MS-13 is still unconfirmed, there is no doubt between the gang’s ties to the Salvadoran community. Also known as Mara Salvatrucha, the gang was originally formed by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s to protect against rival ethnic gangs, and due to arrests and subsequent deportations, it has spread back to El Salvador, as well as other countries in Central America.
Police say Martinez Torres was in his car in the early morning hours of June 18 when he came across Nabra Hassanen and her friends, as they were returning from having breakfast during Ramadan celebrations at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Virginia. Police believe Martinez Torres got upset because they were blocking the road and began to chase them with his car. Hassanen got separated from her friends, who returned to the mosque and notified the Loudoun County and Fairfax County sheriff’s departments. Police arrested Martinez Torres after they found him lingering suspiciously near where she disappeared and collected evidence, but have yet to reveal what it was. Hassanen’s body was found the following afternoon. Police believe she was beaten to death with a baseball bat.
Detectives are still trying to determine whether Nabra was sexually assaulted before her murder, and are awaiting the results of forensic tests. Following a series of high profile attacks on Muslim women wearing the religion’s traditional headscarves, police initially feared she was the victim of a bias crime. However, authorities say there is currently no evidence to warrant a hate crime charge. In an interview with Washington D.C.’s ABC7, Nabra’s father Mohmoud Hassanen said he still believes his daughter was killed because she was a Muslim.
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