17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Virginia was found dead on June 18th after having been reported missing several hours earlier when she never returned from a mosque in the neighboring suburb of Sterling. Police officers said that they did not consider the murder a hate crime, and immediately charged a 22-year-old man identified as Darwin Martinez Torres with the killing. Upon the news, fundraising for Hassanen’s family quickly gained momentum, and by 10 PM that day $25,000 had been raised for supporting the family in these tough times.
According to reports, a group of several teens, including Hassanen, were leaving IHOP, where they ate breakfast following an early gathering at the local mosque. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, the mosque has extra prayers at midnight and 2 AM, and some who attend the mosque partake of McDonald’s or IHOP before sunrise to keep their fast as long as the sun is out; it is believed Hassanen and her friends were doing just that. The local Muslim community was particularly shaken by this killing because of how common the circumstances in which the assault occurred are due to the holidays. Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), said that “it is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”
While leaving, they were confronted by a motorist, and while the rest of the teenagers ran back to the mosque, Hassanen was left behind, and from there she was reported missing. Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities then began their search for the 17-year-old. The police eventually found her remains at 3 PM that same day in a pond in Sterling. While the search was being done, police noticed Torres driving around suspiciously, found some pieces of evidence, and promptly arrested him. While the police has declined to publicly reveal what evidence led to the arrest, Hassanen’s mother told reporters that detectives informed her they had reason to believe Torres used a metal bat to strike the teenager.
Fellow mosquegoers say they saw the group of teenagers leaving the night service talking about going out to eat and dressed in abayas, a common full-length dress sported by Muslim women. Because of their dress and how closely the attack was made to their religious service, initial worries that this was a hate crime were beginning to surface before police assured the community it was not considered as such based on currently known evidence. In fact, the ADAMS mosque in Sterling has a paid armed security guard, which was placed shortly after six Muslims were killed at a Quebec mosque earlier this year. Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer who attends the mosque regularly, expressed the general feelings of the local community: “People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters.”