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Efren Cruz (courtesy of ACPD)

A man accused of raping a teenager in Arlington 13 years ago will be going to trial later this month.

The two-year-long process to bring him to trial in what was once considered a cold case may be facing delays, however, after a mistrial was declared last week.

Efren Cruz, 43, is accused of rape and sodomy. He fled Arlington sometime after the rape in 2009, authorities say, and the investigation went cold until the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers found and arrested him in 2016.

Cruz is a Honduran citizen who came to the U.S. in 1998, according to ICE. He was extradited back to Virginia and arrested in March 2020. A grand jury indicted him on rape and sodomy charges in August of that year.

His initial trial, which began last Monday (Feb. 28), ended a day later when the presiding judge declared a mistrial. The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Arlington Public Defender Office both declined to comment on why this happened, citing professional obligations given that the case is still pending

We are told, however, that the court proceedings somehow lacked transparency and the judge declared the case a mistrial in an abundance of caution, allowing a new trial to be scheduled.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors met today (Wednesday) with Arlington Circuit Court Judge Louise M. DiMatteo and rescheduled the trial for Monday, March 21. An attorney speaking on behalf of Senior Assistant Public Defender Lauren Brice, who is representing Cruz, told the judge this would be enough time for Brice to file new motions in the case based on forthcoming transcripts documenting “whatever happened” in the courtroom last week.

Addressing the prosecution, DiMatteo said she imagines “the remedies that need to take place” after last week are “happening right now.”

The Cruz case dates back to Aug. 28, 2009, when a teen girl told the Arlington County Police Department that a man had sexually assaulted her in her in the 3500 block of S. Ball Street, near Crystal City. Different documents say the alleged victim, named K.C. in court documents, was 13 or 14 years old at the time.

Court records indicate the teenager underwent a physical exam so DNA could be collected. Eventually, a forensic analysis from 2017 determined Cruz “cannot be eliminated as a contributor” of the DNA evidence that was found on her.

The day after K.C. went to ACPD, a felony warrant was issued for Cruz, a then-30-year-old Woodbridge resident and construction worker. Cruz fled to the Houston area sometime between the rape and December 2010, when he was convicted in Texas on charges of criminal mischief and evading arrest and detention charges under a different name, according to court records. At the time, local law enforcement apparently did not know he was a wanted man in Virginia.

Struggling to find Cruz in the months after the rape, detectives in Arlington requested the public’s assistance in a press release dated Nov. 6, 2009.

Without any leads as to his whereabouts, the case in Arlington eventually went cold. It was reassigned in late 2015 to the U.S. Marshals Service, which worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to locate him, according to a press release from ICE.

The two law enforcement agencies found Cruz — who was on Virginia’s Most Wanted List, according to the article — living in Houston under the alias of Anthony Sanchez. He was arrested without incident in March 2016.

Court records note that Cruz was a serial offender, with a 2009 larceny conviction and an arrest for soliciting a prostitute. ICE officers also connected him to a sex offense against a minor in 2012 in Houston, under his alias of Anthony Sanchez. He was convicted of indecent sexual contact with a child in Texas in 2017, according to court records.

After an Arlington grand jury indicted Cruz in 2020, multiple trial dates were set and then withdrawn, including one instance said to be due to staffing changes within the defender’s office that his attorneys argued would hurt his case.

Morning Notes

Arrests in Cold Case MurderUpdated at 7:50 a.m. — “The Arlington County Police Department’s Cold Case Unit is announcing James Christopher Johnson, 59, of Alexandria, Va, and Bobby Joe Leonard, 53, have been charged in relation to the 1998 homicide of Andrea Cincotta in the Colonial Village neighborhood. Mr. Johnson is being held without bond at the Arlington County Detention Center and Mr. Leonard is being held on unrelated charges at Wallens Ridge State Prison. On August 21, 1998, 52-year-old Andrea Cincotta was found dead inside the bedroom of the apartment she shared with Mr. Johnson in the 1700 block of N. Rhodes Street.” [Washington Post, ACPD]

Cool Reception for Climate Emergency Push — “A proposal by two local environmental groups that the Arlington County government declare a ‘climate-change emergency’ received the back of the hand, albeit politely delivered, from County Board members on Nov. 13… ‘We hear you… but understand that we are not able to declare an emergency that gives the local government broader power,’ [said] County Board member Christian Dorsey.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 47. Northwest wind 11 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Sunrise at 6:56 a.m. and sunset at 4:51 p.m. Increasing clouds Saturday, with a high near 49. A slight chance of showers after 1 p.m. Sunday, but otherwise mostly cloudy with a high near 55. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Tom Mockler/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Sentencing in Arlington Cold Case — “A Virginia cold case closed Thursday as Jose Rodriguez-Cruz was sentenced to 40 years in prison in Stafford County for the killing of his wife. Marta Rodriguez went missing from Arlington in 1989, when her son, Hansel Rodriguez, was just four years old… ‘It almost felt like I was able to breathe for the first time in many years,’ said Hansel, now 36.” [NBC 4]

Wheel Theft Spree Along Columbia Pike — “On April 7, police responded to multiple reports of larcenies from auto. The investigations determined that between 6:30 p.m. on April 6 and 7:35 a.m. April 7, the suspect(s) removed all four tires and rims from the four victim vehicles. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]

DCA Traveler Traffic Recovering — “The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that passenger originations at Reagan National were down 68.9 percent in March compared to the pre-pandemic March 2019. In a way, that’s positive news – Reagan National typically has been down 80 percent even as airports in other parts of the country have started to see rebounds.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Salutes Fallen Officer — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “[On Wednesday] we detailed crews along the I-66 overpasses to salute fallen @CapitolPolice Officer Billy Evans as his procession passed through @ArlingtonVA. Doing this twice within a few months hurts. We’re keeping Officer Evan’s family and the USCP in our thoughts & prayers.” [Twitter]

Firefighters Push for Higher Pay Updated at 8:45 a.m. — “Brian Lynch, president of the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (APFPA), called on the Arlington County Board Tuesday to implement a pay increase for county firefighters when it adopts the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. ‘Being firefighters has always meant risking our lives for others,’ Lynch said, during a Tuesday night public hearing.” [Patch]

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A Virginia man has been arrested for a series of rape cases in Arlington that date back to 1991.

Arlington County Police say Michael F. Thompson, who is now 63 and a resident of Virginia’s Northern Neck region, used a gun to rape at least two women near the East Falls Church Metro station. He was linked to the cases after a reexamination of evidence, including DNA evidence, that ACPD’s Cold Case Unit initiated in 2017.

Thompson was identified as the suspect due to “forensic evidence combined with thorough investigative efforts,” and was arrested at his home on Tuesday morning, according to police.

ACPD is now asking anyone with additional information about the nearly 30-year-old cases to step forward.

More from a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Cold Case Unit is announcing the arrest of a suspect in a cold case rape series. Michael F. Thomson, 63, of Montross, VA, was arrested and charged with two counts of the following charges: Rape, Abduction with the Intent to Defile, Forcible Sodomy and Use/Display of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony. Additional charges are anticipated. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility without bond.

Between January and December 1991, Arlington County Police investigated multiple reports of rapes and attempted rapes involving female victims walking from the East Falls Church Metro Station. In each reported incident, the victims were approached by an unknown male who displayed a firearm. Three cases were linked by DNA evidence with a fourth case being investigated as part of the series due to similarities with the other cases.

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on January 17, 1991, the female victim was walking home from the East Falls Church Metro in the 4800 block of Little Falls Road when an unknown male suspect approached her, brandished a firearm and forced her into a grassy area between two homes. The suspect raped the victim before fleeing the scene on foot.

At approximately 7:40 p.m. on February 13, 1991, the female victim was walking from the East Falls Church Metro to her parked vehicle in the 2300 block of N. Tuckahoe Street when she observed the unknown male suspect walking towards her. The suspect brandished a firearm, forced the victim to the side of a residence where he raped her before fleeing the scene on foot.

At approximately 10:00 p.m. on March 6, 1991, the female victim was walking home from the East Falls Church Metro in the 6300 block of Lee Highway when she was approached by an unknown male who alleged to have a firearm. The suspect forced the victim to the back of a nearby residence and directed her to remove her clothing. The suspect placed the firearm to her head and told her to be quiet. The suspect then asked the victim if she wanted him to leave and when she said yes, he fled the scene on foot.

At approximately 7:08 p.m. on December 2, 1991, the female victim was walking from the East Falls Church Metro to her parked vehicle in the 6100 block of N. 22nd Street when she was approached by an unknown male suspect brandishing a firearm. When the victim screamed, the suspect ran away and fled from the scene in a vehicle. As the suspect was fleeing, he dropped the baseball hat he was wearing. DNA from the baseball hat was later linked to DNA recovered in the January 17 and February 13 incidents.

In 2017, the Cold Case Unit initiated a fresh look at these unsolved cases including the review of cold case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results. The DNA was resubmitted for additional analysis including phenotyping and genetic genealogy. The analysis resulted in additional information that led detectives to identify Michael Francis Thomson as a possible suspect. Forensic evidence combined with thorough investigative efforts linked the suspect to the 1991 incidents. He was taken into custody without incident at his residence on the morning of December 1, 2020.

This remain an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this series is asked to contact Detective R. Ortiz at 703-228-4702 or [email protected] Information may also be provided to the Arlington County Police Tip Line at [email protected] or anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Students and staff have been evacuated from Jamestown Elementary School in North Arlington after smoke reportedly filled the school’s boiler room.

The evacuation comes amid frigid temperatures below 20 degrees.

Arlington County firefighters are investigating the smoke and believe it may be the result of a mechanical issue, according to scanner traffic. Police are blocking off streets due to the fire department response.

Those evacuated from the building are expected to be let back in soon.

File photo

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Morning Notes

FBI Renews Search for Hotel Rapist — A cold case is getting hotter as the FBI steps up the search for a man who raped hotel employees in the D.C. area, including in Arlington, between 1998 and 2006. Authorities still don’t know who the suspect is, but in a first for the region, the man’s DNA profile has been indicted for the crime. [FBI, NBC Washington, WTOP]

‘Unaccompanied Minors’ Housed at Local Facility? — “The feds may use a local juvenile detention center to house some of the nearly 2,000 children they’ve separated from their parents at the Mexican border. Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg said she’s expressed ‘strong concerns’ with the board that runs the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, which has a contract to hold as many as 30 unaccompanied minors. The detention center is jointly run by Alexandria and Arlington.” [WUSA 9]

ACPD Helps Kid’s Dream Come True — “After over 900 days in foster care, Cameron’s wish came true when he found his forever family. During last week’s @Capitals visit, we were able to help him with his 2nd wish-touching the #StanleyCup! Today he stopped by to thank Officer Rihl for helping make his dream a reality!” [Twitter]

Local Tech Firm Signs Rosslyn Lease — As expected after being selected for a $60,000 Gazelle grant from Arlington County earlier this year, local tech firm Higher logic has signed a lease and is moving employees into a new 31,000 square foot headquarters space at Waterview Tower (1919 N. Lynn Street) in Rosslyn. The company, which makes community engagement software, acquired four companies last year. The new office offers “floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Potomac River, an open, collaborative environment, and much needed room to expand.” [Washington Business Journal]

Firefighters Help Cool Kids Down — Earlier this week, with sweltering temperatures putting a damper on outdoor activities, an Arlington County fire engine helped Patrick Henry Elementary students cool down during their field day. [Twitter]

ACFD Trains for Water Rescues — The Arlington County Fire Department has a water rescue team, and before yesterday’s rains the team was training in the rapids at Great Falls. [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Texas Murder Suspect Arrested in Arlington — A suspected MS-13 gang member, wanted for two Houston-area homicides, was arrested in Arlington on Saturday. Twenty-year-old Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez, also known as “Terror,” was taken into custody while walking near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive. [Fox 5, WTOP]

Family of Murder Victim Donates Reward Funds — The family of an Iraq war vet shot to death in front of the Pentagon Row shopping center in 2006 has donated $5,000 in unclaimed reward money to Arlington Crime Solvers. “Despite an intensive investigation, a suspect and motive have not been identified,” said Arlington County Police. “This case remains an active cold case investigation.” [NBC Washington, WJLA, Twitter]

Some Arlingtonians Pay to Attend D.C. Public Schools — A handful of Arlington residents pay tuition for their children to attend D.C. public schools. Most are paying for enrollment in the renowned Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest Washington. Arlington, which is still facing a school capacity crunch, does not allow nonresident students as does D.C., Fairfax County and Montgomery County. [Washington Post]

APS May Buy Home Next to Glebe Elementary — The Arlington School Board is considering buying a home next to Glebe Elementary School for $525,000 to provide emergency vehicles another point of access to the school. The home was recently sold to an investment firm for just over $400,000 this past January. [InsideNova]

Explanation for Low-Flying Helicopter — If you spotted a helicopter making low passes over Arlington this past weekend, it might have for a survey by the National Nuclear Security Administration “to measure naturally occurring background radiation.” [Twitter, National Nuclear Security Administration]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Ludvin Estrada sentencedA man who fled to Guatemala to escape murder charges was sentenced to 45 years in prison Friday for a 1999 homicide in the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood.

Ludvin Estrada, 41, was convicted of killing 27-year-old Eva Veliz on May 11, 1999. Police found Veliz dead inside the trunk of a car parked on the 1300 block of N. Pierce Street.

The pair were seen leaving together, after a night out, at approximately 2:45 a.m. on the day of the murder. At some point, the pair started arguing and Estrada strangled Veliz to death, prosecutors say.

Estrada then immediately fled to Guatemala.

Police issued a warrant for Estrada’s arrest, but were unable to find him in Guatemala. The Arlington County Police Department’s cold case unit took over the case in 2012.

A combination of case files, laboratory results and evidence from the crime scene led law enforcement authorities to Estrada in September 2016. He was then extradited to the United States.

More from ACPD:

A man who fled to Guatemala following the 1999 murder of Eva Veliz in the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood of Arlington County was sentenced in the Arlington County Circuit Court on Friday, March 17, 2017. Judge Daniel Fiore imposed the maximum judgement permitted by the plea agreement and sentenced Ludvin Estrada, 41, to forty-five years in prison.

On May 11, 1999, at approximately 4:33 p.m., Arlington County Police responded to the report of a 27-year-old female victim located deceased inside the trunk of a vehicle parked in the 1300 block of N. Pierce Street. The investigation revealed that on the evening prior the victim, Eva Veliz, and the subject, Ludvin Estrada, had been out dancing and were seen leaving together at approximately 2:45 a.m. on May 11, 1999. At some point during the evening, a verbal altercation ensued between the two and the subject strangled the victim causing her death. Estrada immediately fled to Guatemala.

A warrant was issued for Estrada in 1999 but efforts to locate him in Guatemala were unsuccessful. In 2012, the case was assigned to the Arlington County Police Department’s Cold Case Unit. Through a review of the case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results detectives located additional information that verified Estrada’s involvement in the murder.

In September 2016, following a joint investigation by the Arlington County Police Department, the United States Department of State, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the United States Marshals Service and Guatemalan Law Enforcement, Estrada was extradited to the United States to face charges in the 1999 murder of Eva Veliz.

“Today’s sentence is the culmination of years of dogged work and perseverance by Arlington’s law enforcement community.  A special thank you goes to Detective Rosa Ortiz who never, ever forgot about our victim.  Together with two dedicated prosecutors, Assistant Commonwealth Attorneys’ Stephanie Siegel and Lindsay Brooker, this defendant was finally brought to justice.” said Theo Stamos, Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Arlington County Deputy Chief Daniel J. Murray, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division said, “More than a decade ago, Eva Veliz was taken from her loving family in a senseless act of domestic violence. While this case was never a whodunit, Ludvin Estrada’s decision to flee the country made this investigation much more complex. This case demonstrates our commitment to pursue cases, no matter how much time has passed. The message to criminals and the families of the victims is clear — Arlington County will not waver in our commitment to investigate and prosecute cold case homicides.”

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Ludvin Estrada (photo courtesy ACPD)A man accused of strangling a woman and stuffing her dead body in his trunk is back in Arlington to face justice.

Ludvin Estrada, now 46, arrived back in the U.S. today and is being held at the Arlington County jail, according to a police press release. Estrada fled to Guatemala after the May 11, 1999 murder, police say, and was able to elude capture until this past April.

“The apprehension of Estrada is the direct result of outstanding police work and the leveraging of resources from our federal and international partners,” Arlington County Police said in a press release.

The rest of the press release is below.

Following a joint investigation by the Arlington County Police Department, the United States Department of State, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the United States Marshals Service and Guatemalan Law Enforcement, a subject wanted in the 1999 murder of Eva Veliz has been taken into custody in Guatemala and extradited to the United States. Ludvin Estrada, 46, arrived in the United States on Friday, September 9, 2016 and is currently being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility charged with murder.

On May 11, 1999, at approximately 4:33 p.m., Arlington County Police responded to the report of a 27-year-old female victim located deceased inside the trunk of a vehicle parked in the 1300 block of N. Pierce Street. The investigation revealed that on the evening prior, the victim and the subject had been out dancing and were seen leaving together at approximately 2:45 a.m. on May 11, 1999. At some point, a verbal altercation ensued between the two and the subject strangled the victim causing her death. Estrada immediately fled to Guatemala where he remained until his capture in 2016.

A warrant was issued for Estrada in 1999 but efforts to locate him in Guatemala were unsuccessful. In 2012, the case was assigned to the Arlington County Police Department’s Cold Case Unit. Through a review of the case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results detectives located additional information that verified Estrada’s involvement in the death of Eva Veliz. Efforts to locate and apprehend Estrada were resumed and he was taken into custody on April 11, 2016.

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn signs

Some Receiving Duplicate Tax Bills — A large number of Arlington homeowners have received duplicate tax bills from the county. “As you can imagine, we have heard from many concerned taxpayers today,” Treasurer Carla de la Pava told the Sun Gazette. [InsideNova]

Brutal Beating Still Unsolved — The 1965 beating of a 19-year-old woman in her Rosslyn area apartment is still an unsolved, open case. The woman, Brenda Sue Pennington, survived but never fully recovered, living in a nursing home and depending on Medicare until her death in 2007. [Falls Church News-Press]

Beyer Questions New Social Security Requirement — Those who want to access their Social Security information online now must have a text-enabled cell phone as part of a new security measure. That has led to protests from seniors who don’t own a cell phone — and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) agrees with them, saying they “deserve the convenience of checking their earnings and benefits online.” [Patch]

Medium Unsure If TV Series Will Live On — Monica Ten-Kate, the TV medium who communes with dead people and whose family lives in Fairlington, says in an interview that she’s not sure whether her cable TV reality series will be renewed for a third season. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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Justin Wingate Poe (photo courtesy ACPD)(Updated at 4 p.m.) A Woodbridge man has been arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a Lyon Park woman last month.

The sexual assault was linked via evidence to two attempted abductions in Arlington in 2007, according to Arlington County Police. A renewed investigation into those cold cases led to the arrest of 34-year-old Justin Poe.

Poe has not yet been charged in the May sexual assault.

“We are awaiting additional evidence and additional charges are expected related to the 2016 case,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

From an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department has arrested and charged a 34 year-old suspect with two counts of attempted abduction for his role in attacks stemming from 2007. Justin Wingate Poe, 34, of Woodbridge, VA is currently being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility. Additional charges are expected.

At approximately 4:56 a.m. on May 15, 2016 a female victim awoke in her residence in the 700 block of N. Edgewood Street to an unknown male sexually assaulting her. Following the attack, the male suspect fled the scene and the victim was able to contact 911. DNA evidence recovered from this assault was submitted to the state laboratory for analysis. The DNA results linked this case with an unsolved 2007 attempted abduction in the 1100 block of N. Vermont Street.

At approximately 2:27 a.m. on May 28, 2007 a female victim was walking in the 1100 block of N. Vermont Street when an unknown male suspect confronted her from behind and attempted to cover her face with a plastic bag. The victim screamed and the suspect fled the area on foot. The plastic bag was processed for evidence and a latent fingerprint was recovered.

An additional attack occurred on June 7, 2007 at approximately 1:20 a.m. when a female victim inside her residence in the 2600 block of Lee Highway heard a knock on her door. When she opened the door, an unknown male subject standing against the wall just outside the door attempted to place a plastic bag over the victim’s head. The victim screamed and the suspect fled the scene on foot. The victim was able to provide a detailed description of the suspect to police and a composite sketch was released to the public.

Upon receiving the link between the 2007 and 2016 cases, Arlington County Police Department detectives began an intensive investigation including the review of cold case files, crime scene evidence and laboratory results. The review led to additional information that led detectives to identify Justin Wingate Poe as a possible suspect. Forensic evidence and thorough investigative efforts linked the suspect to the incidents in the 1100 block of N. Vermont Street and the 2600 block of Lee Highway.

Officers from the Arlington County Police Department’s Tactical Unit and the Prince William County Police Department took Poe into custody at his residence in Woodbridge, VA in the evening hours of June 17, 2016. Poe has been charged with two counts of attempted abduction. Additional charges are expected. The apprehension of Poe was the direct result of outstanding police work and the leveraging of resources from our regional law enforcement partners.

The investigation into Poe is ongoing. Anyone who has information regarding these incidents or concerning Poe is asked to call Detective Sloan at 703.228.4198 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

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