“The sorrow of this case will ripple through this community for a hundred years,” said Fairfax County’s Commonwealth Attorney Ray Morrogh outside the courthouse Thursday morning.
Morrogh represented the family of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston, who was raped and murdered in June of 2017 while walking to a mosque with friends for pre-dawn religious services.
On Thursday, Darwin Martinez-Torres of Sterling was sentenced to life in prison, the result of a plea bargain that required a life sentence but eliminated the potential of a death penalty.
Fairfax County prosecutors say the attack began when Martinez-Torres drove by and honked his horn at one of Nabra’s friends. The friend yelled back, and the defendant started chasing the group in his car and later on foot.
Nabra couldn’t run as fast as the others. Martinez-Torres caught up with her and beat her with a baseball bat.
Police report he took unconscious Nabra to a nearby pond and raped her, before dumping her body in the water.
Martinez-Torres’ lawyer has said the defendant has intellectual disabilities, with an IQ below 68.
“Every day, every minute, I never forget her. I never forget her. She used to be very nice and she loved everybody,” said Nabra’s father, Mahmoud Hassanen. Since the investigation began, Hassanen has been outspoken about the possibility his daughter’s death may have been a hate crime.
When asked why the defendant hadn’t been pressed on his motive, Morrogh said Martinez-Torres has the right to remain silent. “When something like this happens, we all want an answer,” said Morrogh. “I fear we’ll never get answers to questions like that.”
The plea deal, however, requires Martinez-Torrez to answer any questions from the victim’s family over the next year. The Hassanen family’s lawyers say her death will be investigated as a hate crime.
“We need to know exactly why this happened and part of the way we find out why exactly this happened is by asking the killer himself why he did it and we intend to look at all of the evidence, some of which is still to be collected,” a lawyer said.
Martinez-Torres is an El Salvador native. Immigration authorities say he was in the country illegally.