Torrez Murder Trial Begins — The murder trial of Jorge Torrez, the ex-Marine accused of killing Navy petty officer Amanda Jean Snell on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, has gotten underway. Torrez is already serving multiple life sentences after being convicted in Arlington of rape and numerous other charges. [Washington Post]
Anti-Streetcar Group Blasts County Study — The group Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit has released a list of the “top 15 reasons” a county-funded study on the costs and benefits of a streetcar system is “another waste of taxpayers’ money.” AST says the study is biased and lacking in original research. [Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit]
Arlington Named One of the Worst Rental Investments — Those who invest in rental properties in Arlington only receive a 5 percent return on their investment, making it No. 11 on the list of worst markets for returns for landlords. That’s according to a list compiled by the firm RealtyTrac. [Washington Business Journal]
Authors to Speak at Central Library — Acclaimed authors Ann Beattie and Richard Ford will speak at Arlington Central Library this month as part of the annual Arlington Reads initiative. The Arlington Reads theme this year is “Dazed and Confused: Two Great Writers on Boomer Angst.” Beattie will speak at Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) on April 10 and Ford will speak on April 24. [Arlington County]
Civic Federation Calls for Tax Cut – The Arlington County Civic Federation voted yesterday to recommend a 3-cent or more cut in the county’s property tax rate. The rate currently stands at $1.006 per $100 in assessed value. One civic federation delegate said the group’s vote sends a message to county government: “Rein it in a little bit.” [InsideNoVa]
Arlington Photos Highlighted as Example of Why Microsoft CEO is Retiring — Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, announced in August that he will be stepping down within a year and two photos taken at the Pentagon City mall are being touted as an example of why. The first photo shows an empty Microsoft Store at the mall this past Sunday (December 8) during prime holiday shopping season. The next photo shows a packed Apple Store at the same mall. [Slate]
Parents Claim Incompatible Programs at Drew Model School — Parents who have students at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.) told the County Board last week that the school’s dual focus — a traditional elementary school program and a separate Montessori program — are becoming incompatible. The parents say having the two different programs operate under the same roof stresses both. [Sun Gazette]
Opening Statements in Arlington Sheriff’s Deputy Murder Trial — The murder trial for Arlington County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Patterson began on Monday with opening statements from attorneys on both sides. Patterson is accused of shooting and killing Julian Dawkins during a confrontation in May. [Alexandria Times]
Google Doodle Commemorates Former Arlington Resident — Monday’s Google Doodle commemorated Grace Hopper’s 107th birthday. Hopper, who used to live in Pentagon City, was a pioneering computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. According to Wikipedia, “Grace Murray Hopper Park, located on South Joyce Street in Arlington, Virginia, is a small memorial park in front of her former residence (River House Apartments) and is now owned by Arlington County, Virginia.” [Google]
Air Force Officer Found Not Guilty – Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, accused of groping a woman on a Crystal City sidewalk earlier this year, has been found not guilty by an Arlington County jury. Krusinski was the chief of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch of the U.S. Air Force, and his arrest sparked a national conversation about sexual assault in the military. The charge against Krusinski was eventually changed to assault and battery, and Thursday afternoon, after a two-day trial, the jury found that prosecutors “did not present evidence to meet the threshold of reasonable doubt.” [NBC Washington, Washington Post]
Arlington Employees Playing Games on the Job? — An “ABC7 Watchdog investigation” found that employees of several Northern Virginia counties, including Arlington, are doing quite a bit of web browsing and gaming on the job. Arlington employees registered 13,106 hits on gaming sites — including 3,813 for the game Candy Crush and 2,593 for Words With Friends — on a single day in August. Arlington employees also visited YouTube about 3,800 times that day. [WJLA]
Wardian to Run Two Marathons in One Day — Prolific local marathon runner Michael Wardian is aiming to run two marathons in two different states in one day this weekend. Wardian plans on running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio marathon Sunday morning and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon Sunday afternoon. What’s more, his goal is to run each in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes. [Competitor]
Fees May Climb for DCA Taxi Pickups — It may cost a bit more to take a taxi from Reagan National Airport next year. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering a plan to raise the fees collected from taxi drivers that pick up passengers from DCA. The fee hike would raise about $1 million. If approved, the new rates could be in place by next summer. [Washington Post]
Photo courtesy Melissa Shoemaker
Victim, Witnesses Testify During Krusinski Trial — The 23-year-old woman accusing the Air Force’s former sexual assault prevention chief of groping her in May testified about the incident yesterday during the first day of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski’s assault and battery trial. The woman broke down in tears while describing how Krusinski allegedly grabbed her buttocks after he spent the night drinking in Crystal City. Witnesses reported the woman repeatedly punched Krusinski following the alleged groping. One of the witnesses who testified — a transgender woman who goes by Jordain — also reported being groped and propositioned by Krusinski that night. Jordain said Krusinski appeared to be a “happy drunk” and she brushed him off. The trial is expected to last three days. [Stars and Stripes, Military Times]
County Prepares for Winter — No snowflakes have fallen yet, but Arlington County has already launched preparations for the 2013-2014 winter season. The snow removal team includes 92 drivers and 46 trucks that are equipped with plows and salt spreaders. Residents will be able to track the progress of road clearing online, including the ability to check traffic cameras at certain intersections. Residents are asked to clear snow from sidewalks within 24 hours of a storm, per the county’s Snow Removal Ordinance. [Arlington County]
1K Wine and Beer Walk on Sunday — The Washington Wine Academy is hosting its semi-annual 1K Wine and Beer Walk in Crystal City on Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 16-17). Start times will be staggered from 1:00-5:00 p.m. and participants get to sample 22 different types of wine or beer while strolling through the Shops at Crystal City. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online. [Washington Wine Academy]
Veterans Day Ceremony in Clarendon — Members of local American Legion posts gathered at the Clarendon War Memorial on Monday to dedicate a temporary plaque bearing the name of six fallen servicemembers who hailed from Arlington. [Patch]
Fewer Trains Makes for Crowded Commute — Metro commuters who had to work on Veterans Days experienced delays and crowding due to Metro running on a reduced holiday service schedule. [Washington Post]
Parents Keep Pushing for FLES — Parents whose children are in elementary schools that don’t yet have the Foreign Language in Elementary School program are keeping up the pressure on school and county officials. “Despite paying the same tax rate… we are not receiving the same education,” said one Taylor Elementary parent. FLES provides elementary students with just over two hours of Spanish language education a week. [Sun Gazette]
Solar Lab at Va. Tech Ballston Building — In addition to helping to lower energy costs for the building, a solar panel array on the top of the Virginia Tech Research Center in Ballston is serving as a laboratory for graduate students. [Virginia Tech]
Krusinski Case Goes to Trial — The case against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the former chief of the U.S. Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch who was accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman in Crystal City, goes to trial today. A jury is expected to start hearing arguments in the case this morning.
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
The first degree murder case against Arlington County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Patterson from a fatal shooting in Alexandria in May was sent to a grand jury on Tuesday afternoon.
Patterson, 44, is accused of shooting and killing 22-year-old Julian Dawkins, an Alexandria resident. Patterson and his attorneys claim Dawkins attacked him with a knife, and he fired on Dawkins in self-defense. After hearing more than two hours of witness testimony, Alexandria General District Court Judge Becky J. Moore ruled there was probable cause to move forward and sent the case to a grand jury.
Alexandria Police Officer Judy Taylor, a crime scene investigator, testified that Dawkins, who drove a shuttle for PBS NewsHour in Shirlington, had a knife clipped to the outer portion of his jeans pocket, but it was folded up.
Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel played in the courtroom the 911 call Patterson made after the shooting. It was the first time many, including Dawkins’ parents, had heard the call.
“I was just involved in a shooting,” Patterson said on the call, made at 12:45 a.m. on May 23. “I just had a young man pull a knife on me and I shot him.”
Dawkins suffered one bullet wound to the upper chest, investigators said. Witnesses testifying gave conflicting reports of the incident. Reginald White, who lives a few doors down from the scene of the incident on Lynhaven Drive, said he saw Patterson leave an argument with Dawkins, then return with a pistol holstered to his hip. Three minutes later, White said, he heard a gunshot.
Willie Sydnor, who lives a few houses down the street from where the shooting occurred, said he saw Dawkins chase Patterson after the initial incident.
Dawkins said “this is my block,” Sydnor testified. “Then I saw Julian jump at [Patterson] and say ‘don’t come back around here.’”
Officer David Chamnaiphol was the first to the scene, and he said he immediately placed Patterson in handcuffs and took away his gun, badge, handcuffs, cell phone and wallet. The Officer of the Medical Examiner reported that Dawkins had a blood alcohol content of 0.15.
The courtroom was filled to the point where members of the community were standing along the back wall to fit inside. Many of Dawkins’ peers were wearing commemorative T-shirts that said “R.I.P. Juju.” Dawkins’ parents took questions outside of the Alexandria courthouse once the decision came down, giving their reaction to hearing the 911 call for the first time.
“After hearing that call, I truly feel that it was premeditated,” Gwen Prattmiller, Dawkins’ mother, said.
“He had no remorse,” said Curtis Dawkins, Julian Dawkins’ father. “Right now we’re thankful that a decision was made and it was the proper decision.”
Photo via Alexandria Police Department
Javon Martin Trial Underway — The trial for Javon Martin, one of the men accused of killing Arlington resident Carl Diener in 2009, began on Monday. Attorneys for the Commonwealth spent much of Tuesday (January 29) presenting evidence against Martin. The other man accused of the crime, Martin’s cousin Roger Clark III, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last year and is awaiting sentencing. [Washington Post]
Man Arrested for Attempted Rental Car Theft — Police arrested a man who caused a scene at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday morning. He was spotted running around the grounds of DCA and along the George Washington Parkway after allegedly trying to steal a rental car. Airport Police found 28-year-old Robert Cooper of Washington, DC in Crystal City a short time later and arrested him. Cooper has been charged with Attempted Grand Larceny.
Green Valley Pharmacy Receives Historic Designation — The Green Valley Pharmacy in the Nauck neighborhood has been approved by the County Board for designation as the 33rd Arlington Historic District. It is the first historically African American commercial building to be honored as an Arlington Historic District. The designation was granted not for the site’s architectural significance, but for the historical and cultural significance, as well as recognition for Dr. Leonard Muse’s lifetime of contributions to his community. [Arlington County]
New Recruits Sought for Civic Leadership Program — Arlington County is looking new recruits for its Neighborhood College program, which is a free, eight-session course to encourage civic engagement and help residents build leadership skills. Participants will learn how to become neighborhood advocates and how to bring about change for issues affecting the community. The sessions will be held each Thursday evening from April 4 to May 23. Applications for the 2013 Civic Leadership Development Program are due March 4, 2013. [Arlington County]
(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) A man accused of breaking into an Arlington hotel room and victimizing two female tourists has been found guilty.
Storme Gary Swann, 51, was accused of binding two women — a mother, 73, and a daughter, 51, who were visiting from Canada — then sexually assaulting one of them (the daughter). He also robbed them of cash, jewelry and electronics.
Swann was arrested two years ago, on November 24, 2010. Yesterday, jury found Swann guilty and recommend a whopping 95 year sentence, based in part on his prior criminal convictions.
From an Arlington County Police Department press release:
On November 15, 2012, after a three day trial, an Arlington County Circuit Court jury found Storme Gary Swann, 51, formerly of La Plata, Maryland, guilty of two counts of robbery, two counts of abduction, and one count of statutory burglary. The offenses occurred on August 14, 2010, when Swann broke into a hotel room in the 2400 block of South Glebe Road. He then forcibly assaulted, detained, and bound two female tourists – a mother, 73 and daughter, 51 – who were visiting from Canada, robbing them of cash, jewelry, and electronics. He also sexually assaulted one of the victims.
After receiving evidence of Swann’s criminal history, which included prior convictions for armed robbery, first-degree sexual assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and kidnapping, the jury recommended a 95 year sentence. Final sentencing is scheduled for February 8, 2013 before Judge Louise DiMatteo. Under Virginia law, the court may impose the recommended sentence or reduce it but cannot increase it.
The investigation was conducted by Sergeant Donald Fortunato of the Arlington County Police Department. Jay E. Burkholder prosecuted the case on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia. “Due to the exceptional work of Sergeant Fortunato and other members of the Arlington County Police Department, a dangerous criminal was apprehended,” stated Burkholder. “The victims showed great courage in confronting their attacker. On behalf of Commonwealth’s Attorney Theophani K. Stamos and Police Chief M. Douglas Scott, I am grateful that these brave women were willing to return to our community and relive a terrifying experience in order to prevent Swann from victimizing anyone else. In its verdict and sentence, the jury made clear that violent crime will not be tolerated in Arlington County.”
A jury sentenced Trevor Frye, 28, to 40 days in the Arlington County jail and a $2,500 fine. A judge is expected to finalize the sentencing at a hearing on Dec. 7.
Frye was acquitted on a separate charge of unlawful entry. He had been accused of entering his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and knocking on her bedroom door in the middle of the night, while intoxicated.
At trial, the victim testified that Frye emailed her the topless photo of herself — sleeping in Frye’s bed — following an argument, according to prosecutors. The photo, which was apparently taken with a cell phone, was presented as evidence at the trial. The victim testified that she had a conversation with Frye, prior to the photo being taken, in which she said she specifically said she didn’t want him to take such photos of herself.
Frye, who is not a lawyer, represented himself at trial, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Josh Katcher, who prosecuted the case.
The case attracted significant attention following an ARLnow.com article in May. Though public interest seemed disproportionate to the nature of the alleged crimes, in a statement issued to ARLnow.com Katcher said there’s a larger lesson to be learned from the case.
[Commonwealth's Attorney] Theo [Stamos] has made it clear that these cases are not to be taken lightly, especially because one isolated incident of unlawful filming can lead to a lifetime of anxiety. One unauthorized picture on the internet is all it takes. And you have to keep it mind, once it’s out there, there is very little we can do to get it back. The genie is out of the bottle. It’s a bell that can never be unrung.
The victim in this case will spend the rest of her life worrying that the picture Mr. Frye unlawfully took will make it onto the internet. Can you imagine if every time you applied for a job, met a significant other’s family, or made a new friend, you had to worry about them looking you up on the internet and finding a topless picture. I think it was that sentiment that caused the jury to impose 40 days [in jail] and the [maximum] fine.
This is a great result. It sends a strong signal to the community that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.
I have a feeling that we will see more prosecutions for this type of crime as social media becomes more intertwined with our lives, especially considering the ease with which a picture can now be snapped and sent via a smart phone.
Katcher credited Arlington County police officer Melinda Wood and detectives James Stone and Dan Gillenwater for helping to make the case against Frye.
“Without their tireless effort, a tough case would have been impossible, and a criminal would have gone free,” he said.
John Reynolds was 24 at the time of his arrest in March 2011. He was accused of hitting a 22-year-old woman with his car while driving drunk on Fairfax Drive, near the Ballston Metro station, on December 30, 2010. Reynolds sped away from the scene of the near-fatal accident, but detectives were able to use debris from his car to track him down and arrest him.
Reynolds — who studied psychology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University — was charged with hit and run and DUI maiming. Following a three-day trial that started on Monday, an Arlington County jury found Reynolds guilty on both charges yesterday (Thursday) afternoon. Today the jury sentenced Reynolds to 4 years and 3 months in prison, plus a $2,500 fine.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Burkholder, who prosecuted the case with fellow Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Clarke, said Reynolds’ “level of intoxication” played a role in the jury’s decision-making. Reynolds did not testify at the sentencing hearing, Burkholder said.
The victim of the accident suffered what Burkholder described as “very serious” injuries to her hip and legs. She also suffered nerve damage.
“Due to some fantastic doctors at Inova Fairfax Hospital she survived and is walking today,” Burkholder said. “She is doing much better, but will always face some physical challenges from this crime.”
Reynolds is being held at the Arlington County jail pending a formal sentencing hearing in September, when a judge will have the option of suspending part of his sentence.
Death Penalty Sought for Torrez — Former Marine Jorge Torrez, who’s already serving a life sentence for raping and abducting an Arlington woman, is now facing a separate murder trial. Prosecutors say they’re seeking the death penalty for Torrez, who’s accused of murdering Navy petty officer Amanda Jean Snell in her barracks on Fort Myer in 2009. [WTOP]
Involuntary Bankruptcy for Market Tavern? — Creditors are trying to force newly-renovated Clarendon restaurant Market Tavern (formerly Harry’s Tap Room) into bankruptcy, claiming the eatery owes them at least $77,000 in unpaid debts. Owner Michael Sternberg says the proceedings won’t have an impact on the restaurant’s operations. [Washington Business Journal]
Elevation Burger Expanding — Arlington-based organic burger chain Elevation Burger is expanding. The restaurant now has 29 locations worldwide, but is planning to have 50 locations by the end of the year. The concept is proving especially popular in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the company is testing out two new burger toppings — hardwood smoked bacon and sauteed mushrooms — at its Arlington location (2447 North Harrison Street). [Nation's Restaurant News]
Historic Designation for Tiny Cemetery — A tiny, historic cemetery plot at 5000 Lee Highway, in the Hall’s Hill community, is getting some attention as Arlington County moves to designate it as a local historic district. The oldest grave in the 7,100 square foot cemetery is that of Margaret Hyson, who died in 1891 and was a former slave on the Hall’s Hill plantation. [Washington Post]
A man accused of forcing prostitutes to perform sex acts at gunpoint in Crystal City is facing a lengthy jail sentence after pleading guilty or being found guilty on an assortment of charges.
Last month, a pair of Arlington County Circuit Court juries found McKinley C. Joyner guilty on two counts of forcible sodomy, two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and one count of abduction with the intent to defile. He also entered an Alford plea on charges of rape, forcible sodomy and abduction.
Prosecutors say Joyner victimized three female escorts in two separate incidents between 5:00 and 8:00 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2010. The women, who Joyner found via the web site Backpage.com, were each forced to engage in sexual activity at gunpoint at Joyner’s Crystal City apartment, according to prosecutors.
Joyner is facing up to 51 years in prison as a result of the convictions and the plea. His final sentencing dates are set for late next month.
Joyner’s legal troubles don’t end with there, however. He’s also facing a charge of possession with intent to distribute for the drug N-Benzylpiperazine, also known as BZP or Legal X. A trial on that charge and an accompanying firearms charge is scheduled for March 27.
Prior to these alleged crimes, Joyner had a relatively clean record. Prosecutors say they were only aware of one past conviction — on a 1999 charge for possession of marijuana in Montgomery County, Md.
Even though the Joyner’s victims were prostitutes, prosecutors say that doesn’t diminish the serious nature of the crimes.
“These are difficult cases for a lot of reasons,” Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Lisa Bergman told ARLnow.com. “When you’re dealing with victims that are prostitutes, it obviously was our contention that they were worthy of the protection our system. And the jury came back and echoed that sentiment.”
Roger K. Clark III is facing a first degree murder charge in connection with the 2009 slaying of Diener. The 57-year-old Diener was found lying on a Clarendon side street in the early morning of Dec. 29, 2009. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
After a year and a half investigation, police arrested Clark and another man in June. The other suspect has since been released, while Clark faces a jury trial that’s currently scheduled to begin on Jan. 9, 2012.
The trial is expected to last at least four days, according to Diener’s sister.
Teacher Diversity Lags in Arlington — While 28 percent of Arlington public school students are Hispanic, only 7 percent of APS teachers are Hispanic. The school system has been actively working to diversify its teacher pool, however. Over the past year, 14 percent of new teachers hired have been Hispanic. [Sun Gazette]
Jury Selection for Lululemon Murder Trial — Jury selection is beginning today in Maryland in the trial of Brittany Norwood, the woman charged in the murder of Rosslyn resident Jayna Murray. Murray was found bludgeoned to death inside a Lululemon Athletica store in Bethesda in March. [WJLA]
Wardian Strikes Again — Prolific marathoner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian has “obliterated” another record. He ran the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Ultramarathon in central Pennsylvania in 5 hours, 33 minutes and 47 seconds — beating the course record by nearly 10 minutes. [Centre Daily Times]
Photo courtesy Anonymous
An Arlington jury has found former Marine Jorge “George” Torrez guilty of rape and 13 other charges.
From an Arlington County Police Department news release:
ARLINGTON, VA. – The Arlington County Police Department announces the judgment rendered on Jorge Torrez on October 15, 2010. He was arrested in February 2010 as the suspect in an attempted abduction case. He was later linked to an abduction and rape case that also occurred in February.
In the early hours of February 10, 2010, a woman was walking in the 1700 block of N. Quincy Street when a man displaying a handgun approached her. The man indicated that he wanted the victim to get into a car, but the victim resisted. The victim was ultimately told to give the suspect her purse, which she did, and he fled.
On February 27, 2010, around 4 a.m., police responded to the 600 block of North Wakefield Street for a call about an abduction. Two young women were walking to a residence when a man confronted them with a handgun. The suspect forced them inside the house where he restrained them. The suspect then forced one of the victims to leave the house with him and she was forced into the suspect’s vehicle. Four hours later, the victim was found seeking help and medical treatment in a neighboring jurisdiction. She was suffering from serious injuries and was transported to an area hospital.
During the investigation of these crimes, two separate patrol officers recalled seeing, and running the license plate, of a vehicle that matched the description of the SUV used in these crimes. That information lead to the owner of the SUV, Jorge Torrez. This police work was instrumental in the identification and subsequent arrest of the suspect.
A jury returned guilty verdicts on Jorge Torrez this afternoon. He was convicted of 14 charges including three counts of Abduction with the Intent to Defile, three counts of Forcible Sodomy, two counts of Robbery, one count of Rape, one count of Breaking and Entering While Armed, and four weapons charges related to the previous charges. The jury recommended five life sentences plus 168 years and a $190,000 fine. The formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 10, 2010.