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Manhunt Underway For Virginia Man Accused Of Killing His Ex-Girlfriend And Dumping Her Body In Park

Authorities say evidence suggests Joel Mosso Merino killed his Hannah Choi and dumped her body in a Maryland park before going on the run.

By Jill Sederstrom
Hannah Choi Pd

A manhunt is underway for a Virginia man suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend at the home they shared together and then dumping her body at a Maryland park before going on the run.

Investigators are now searching for 27-year-old Joel Mosso Merino, who they believe has likely fled the state, after two warrants were issued for his arrest in the suspected slaying of Hannah Choi, 35.

Major Ed O’Carroll, bureau commander of major crimes, cyber & forensics for the Fairfax County Police said in a press conference Tuesday that the warrants for second-degree murder and disposal of a body were issued after “mounting compelling evidence” led to an “abundance of probable cause” in the case.

“Our victim, 35-year-old Hannah Choi did nothing wrong,” O’Carroll said. “She was the victim of foul play. She was the victim of violence, the victim of murder, and we know the suspect. Hannah knew her killer.”

While authorities believe that Choi was killed, her body has not been found and authorities continue to search Piscataway Park in Maryland after they discovered evidence indicating that Merino had spent “significant time” in the park the night Choi disappeared.

“Our search and rescue team has been all over searching and continuing to search for Hannah’s body in the park,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said during the press conference.

Choi was last seen at her Alexandria home on Saturday, March 5.

When her friends arrived at her home the next day, Choi never answered the door and their concern continued to mount after she missed several appointments and couldn’t be reached.

“Her friends contacted police out of concern for her wellbeing,” police said in a statement.

Investigators searched Choi’s home and found that “the house appeared to be in order” except for one ominous clue. The bedding in one of the bedrooms was missing.

“Based on her sudden and unexpected disappearance, detectives from our major crimes bureau launched an active missing persons investigation,” O’Carroll said.

Suspicion turned to Merino—the victim’s former boyfriend—after authorities learned the pair spent “significant time” together the day she disappeared.

“We know they were in the community that evening together, video surveillance supports that,” O’Carroll said. “Detectives do believe at some point something happened that resulted in a significant injury to Hannah. Detectives believe Merino then removed Hannah from the home and transported her to another location.”

Joel Mosso Merino Pd

Investigators also discovered “critical” evidence in a vehicle, recovered March 7 in Washington D.C., that they believe Merino had been driving the night Choi vanished.

While O’Carroll declined to elaborate on what evidence led investigators to believe Choi had been harmed, he said authorities are certain she encountered foul play.

“We know something bad happened, really bad, and we have evidence and details that make us believe—firmly believe—without any doubt that she’s deceased,” he said.  

He described Choi as “a bright, caring, amazing young woman, with the world at her reach” when she was killed.

Investigators are now trying to track down Merino, who they believe may have spent some time in Georgia after going on the run.

Davis urged anyone with information about Merino’s whereabouts or the location of Choi’s remains, to contact investigators at (703) 246-7800, option 2.

“We are, again, committed to finding Hannah and finding her killer,” O’Carroll said.

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