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Gavel (Flickr photo by Joe Gratz)

An Arlington County jury found a 66-year-old man guilty on Monday of killing his son in Green Valley in 2020.

Marshall Stephens Jr., 45, was found alone in his vehicle in the 1900 block of S. Lowell Street with a single gunshot wound to the back of his head on April 23, 2020. His father — Marshall Stephens — was found guilty of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Stephens, who is scheduled to be sentenced April 1, faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and maximum of life behind bars for the murder charge and a minimum of three years for the firearm charge, prosecutors say.

“While there is nothing we can do to bring back Marshall Stephens, Jr., we are grateful for the jury’s verdict and attention to this case,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. “We hope this helps bring some level of closure to the surviving victims as they continue their difficult healing process.”

The full press release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is below.

On Monday January 24, 2022, an Arlington County jury unanimously found Marshall Stephens, 66, guilty of first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Stephens was found guilty in connection with the April 23, 2020, shooting of his 45-year-old son, Marshall Stephens, Jr. in the Green Valley neighborhood of Arlington. The victim was found alone in his vehicle, with a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.

Successful prosecution was possible because of a careful investigation on the part of the Arlington County Police Department and collaboration between ACPD and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“While there is nothing we can do to bring back Marshall Stephens, Jr., we are grateful for the jury’s verdict and attention to this case,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. “We hope this helps bring some level of closure to the surviving victims as they continue their difficult healing process.”

First degree murder carries a statutory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison; use of a firearm in the commission of a felony carries a statutory minimum sentence of 3 years.

Stephens is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1, 2022, in the Arlington County Circuit Court.

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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti

Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is welcoming a drop in car-related crimes, which have trended upwards during the pandemic years.

Preliminary data from the Arlington County Police Department indicates carjackings dropped from 16 in 2020 to eight in 2021, while car thefts dropped from 323 in 2020 to 306 in 2021. Finalized numbers will be published later this year in ACPD’s annual crime report.

“After a temporary rise in car thefts in the first half of the year, our office helped to spearhead the formation of a regional task force, resulting in a marked decrease in car-related crimes in the second half of the year,” Dehghani-Tafti, the top prosecutor for Arlington and the City of Falls Church, said in her most recent newsletter. “Most of the recent car thefts are a result of cars left unlocked, unoccupied and idling.”

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, carjackings soared in Arlington — from one case in 2019 to 16 in 2020 — and the rest of the D.C. area. This uptick prompted more police patrols in the first half of 2021 and, by the summer, a coordinated regional response.

Preliminary data on carjackings and car thefts in 2021 (via ACPD)

From January through June, ACPD recorded 160 motor vehicle thefts and from July to December, ACPD recorded 146 similar crimes, which is “a good percentage drop,” Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow.

Per the 2020 annual report, motor vehicle thefts have a ways to go if they’re to fall back to levels last seen in 2018 and 2019, when there were 171 and 227, respectively.

Property crimes from 2016 to 2020 (via ACPD)

Dehghani-Tafti said she called attention to the drops in car-related crimes — as well as the zero recorded homicides last year and the lower rates of gun violence compared to other U.S. cities — in her newsletter to provide a counterpoint those who are saying crime is up under her tenure.

Dehghani-Tafti was elected in 2019 on a pledge to reform the criminal justice system by reducing racial disparities in prosecution as well as recidivism and incarceration, and investigating wrongful convictions. Last year, there was an effort to recall her that accused her of offering criminals lenient plea deals.

“[T]he more general point I was making in the digest is twofold: the first is that, contrary to some of the overheated rhetoric in certain quarters, crime remained low and we’ve kept our word in devoting resources to serious crimes, hence our record in the last year, including tackling a number of cold homicide and rape cases; second, I wanted to be intellectually honest that a lot of people deserve credit for crime being low, and to give them thanks for it,” she tells ARLnow.

Specifically, she thanked the Department of Human Services and the county government for funding social services, the Arlington School Board for diverting kids from the criminal justice system — it removed police officers from schools in 2021 — as well as ACPD for its deescalation work and community policing and the Sheriff’s Office for helping to reduce the jail population.

She says the jail population “consistently remains at its lowest levels in Arlington history,” although it has increased from a record low of 209 in June 2020 to 265 in December 2021.

As additional evidence of crime remaining low, she pointed to the zero homicides recorded in 2021 and relatively low rates of gun violence compared to other jurisdictions.

ACPD confirmed that no 2021 deaths have been ruled a homicide, which would be down from three in 2020 and two in 2019. There is, however, an open investigation into the deaths of two people in a Ballston apartment in December.

Two reported deaths in Arlington in 2021 fall outside ACPD’s jurisdiction and reporting: the man who stabbed, shot and killed a police officer outside the Pentagon this summer and the death of a security contractor at the U.S. State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center.

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Arlington County police are investigating after two people were found dead in an apartment near Ballston on Wednesday.

The investigation is taking place at the Clarendon Court Apartments complex, located on the 3800 block of 6th Street N. in the Ashton Heights neighborhood, about two blocks from the Gold’s Gym. Detectives could be seen using a ladder to take photos of the apartment, which is on the second floor of a two-story garden-style building.

“ACPD is conducting a death investigation in the 3800 block of 6th Street N.,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirms to ARLnow. “Police were dispatched at 12:01 p.m. to the report of a cardiac arrest and located two adults deceased inside a residence. The investigation into the circumstances of the deaths are ongoing and cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”

Numerous police and fire department were on the scene. The parking lot of the building was cordoned off with crime scene tape while the investigation continues.

On Thursday morning, police said preliminary information suggests that “there is no apparent ongoing threat to the community.” From ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is conducting a death investigation in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

At approximately 12:01 p.m. on December 22, police were dispatched to the 3800 block of 6th Street N. for the report of cardiac arrest. Upon arrival, an adult male and female were located deceased inside a residence. This investigation into the circumstances of the deaths is ongoing. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause of death. Based on the preliminary investigation, there is no apparent ongoing threat to the community.

Anyone with information that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Morning Notes

Boat Catches Fire Near Gravelly Point — “Update boat fire Gravelly Point. Vessel is well involved. #DCsBravest Fireboats in active attack on burning vessel. The 11 occupants are being transported to Fire/Police pier for evaluation.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Flags at Half Staff in Va., U.S. — “Per an order from @GovernorVA, the Virginia flag is to be lowered to half staff at all federal, state and local government facilities across Virginia in memory of U.S Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday. Flags are to remain lowered until burial.” [Twitter, White House]

AMC Shirlington Temporarily Closed — The AMC Shirlington 7 theater appears to have suddenly, temporarily closed over the weekend. AMC’s website shows no planned showtimes at the theater. The reason for the closure was not given. The theater reopened on Aug. 27 at a reduced capacity after closing at the beginning of the pandemic. [Twitter]

Beyer Still Pushing for Rosslyn Boathouse — “The seemingly interminable planning process for a new boathouse facility in Rosslyn already has outlasted one of its champions in Congress, and while U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) is not planning on departing any time soon, one wonders if it might outlast him, too. Not if Beyer has anything to say about it. ‘It’s moving very slowly, but it will be done,’ Beyer vowed.” [InsideNova]

Local Startup’s Return to Office Normalcy — “Phone2Action’s first step toward that elusive new normalcy appears to be going as planned. That’s the latest word from Jeb Ory, CEO and founder of the advocacy platform, who said those employee volunteers the company selected to be the first workers back into Phone2Action’s headquarters at 1500 Wilson Blvd. seem to adapting well to the workplace changes.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Approves New Bonds — From last week: “The Board [voted] to authorize the sale of up to $172.32 million in General Obligation Public Improvement Bonds for new projects and the refunding of existing bonds to lower interest rates and save taxpayer money.” [Arlington County]

Arrest Made in Eden Center Nightclub Homicide — “City of Falls Church Police identified Geovanny Alexander Mejia Castro as the homicide victim in the September 11, 2020 shooting at the Diva Lounge (6763 Wilson Blvd.). Mr. Castro, a security guard at the nightclub, died from multiple gunshot wounds.” [City of Falls Church]

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A man was shot and killed outside a nightclub in the Eden Center just after midnight this morning.

Falls Church police say the shooting happened outside Diva Lounge, which is located at 6763 Wilson Blvd, in the rear of the shopping center near Planet Fitness.

“At approximately 12:05 a.m. police responded to a 911 call about a shooting at the Diva Lounge,” police said. “Police and medic units responded to the scene, where they discovered a male victim deceased from a gunshot wound.”

“Witnesses to the incident report the suspect shot the victim then fled the scene on foot,” the police statement continues. “The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his 30s, with dark hair, who was wearing black shorts and a blue polo shirt. There is no camera or video footage of the suspect available at this time.”

Police say they are actively investigating the case but believe there is “no continuing threat to the community.”

“If you witnessed or have any information regarding this incident, please call Detective Darian Chuquillangui at (703) 248-5165,” police said.

Just over ten years ago, the same nightclub space — it was then V3 Lounge — was the scene of a large, early morning brawl.

Photo via Google Maps

Two Maryland men have been arrested and charged with murder, following a fatal triple shooting along Columbia Pike late last month.

“Christopher Rather, 27, of Oxen Hill, MD, and Franklin Lambright, 27, of Temple Hills, MD, have been charged with Murder and are being held in Prince George’s County, Maryland pending extradition back to the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Arlington County Police said in a press release over the weekend.

“The suspects were apprehended with the assistance of the Prince George’s County Police Department and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force,” the press release continues. “Additional charges are pending.”

One person was killed and two injured after shots were fired into a crowd early on a Sunday morning along the 3000 block of Columbia Pike. Police are not revealing the exact circumstances that led to the shooting, other than to say that it stemmed from a dispute of some kind.

“The investigation indicates there was a dispute between multiple parties prior to the shooting,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “As the parties separated, the suspects allegedly entered a vehicle and fired shots into the crowd before fleeing the scene.”

The man who died was found dead in a vehicle two blocks away. He was identified by police as 21-year-old Donovan Green, Jr., of Upper Marlboro, Md. Two other people suffered minor injuries and arrived at a local hospital on their own.

“This incident remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact police at 703-228-4180 or [email protected],” Savage said. “Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Green’s killing was the third homicide of 2020 in Arlington County.

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Police are investigating the killing of a 45-year-old Arlington man last night.

Arlington County Police say the man was found shot to death in the driver’s seat of a car around 10 p.m. Thursday, in the Green Valley neighborhood.

“This is the second homicide in Arlington County in 2020,” police noted. So far there’s no word on any suspects or possible motive.

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a homicide that took place in the Green Valley neighborhood on the evening of April 23, 2020.

At approximately 9:54 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious vehicle in the 1900 block of S. Lowell Street. Upon arrival, officers approached the vehicle and located the male victim deceased in the driver’s seat suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. The victim has been identified as Marshall Stephens, 45, of Arlington, VA.

This incident remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective J. Trainer of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4185 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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Morning Notes

No Coronavirus in N. Va. So Far — “UPDATE: Tests came back negative on a second Northern Virginia resident suspected of having the novel coronavirus.” [Twitter]

HQ2 Search Was Intended to Extract Handouts — “When Elon Musk secured $1.3 billion from Nevada in 2014 to open a gigantic battery plant, Jeff Bezos noticed. In meetings, the Amazon.com Inc. chief expressed envy for how Musk had pitted five Western states against one another in a bidding war for thousands of manufacturing jobs; he wondered why Amazon was okay with accepting comparatively trifling incentives.” [Bloomberg]

Todd Hitt’s Path to Fraud — “Todd Hitt had never worked for the family company. He’d built spec houses around the same North Arlington neighborhoods where he’d grown up, but according to a court document, his homebuilding business had collapsed… now solidly into midlife, Hitt suddenly seemed eager to leave his fingerprints on the Washington landscape.” [Washingtonian]

Ballston Homicide Investigation Update — An update on last month’s homicide in Ballston, from an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “The homicide investigation remains a top priority of the department with detectives continuing to process evidence, interview witnesses and follow-up on investigate leads. At this time, there is no new information to provide regarding the investigation. Arlington County Crime Solvers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for tips leading to the arrest of a suspect. Report tips anonymously by calling the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at ‪1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Virginia’s Favorite Valentine’s Candy — Virginia’s favorite Valentine’s Day candy is conversation hearts, followed by heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, according to a candy website. [CandyStore.com]

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) A young man found dead inside a Ballston apartment building was the victim of a homicide, Arlington County Police said Tuesday afternoon.

In a brief statement, ACPD said Scott Ratigan, 24, died as a result of “trauma to the upper body.” It is Arlington’s first homicide of 2020.

Police were called to the AVA Ballston Square building at 850 N. Randolph Street around 5:30 p.m. Friday for a report of a man found unresponsive and bloodied in an apartment. He was declared dead on scene by medics. A 911 caller reported a strong smell of bleach in the apartment, according to scanner traffic.

More from ACPD:

Following an autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the suspicious death has been ruled a homicide with the victim suffering trauma to the upper body. The victim has been identified as Scott Ratigan, 24, of Arlington, VA.

This remains an active and ongoing criminal investigation. Arlington County Crime Solvers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for tips leading to the arrest of a suspect. To report anonymous tips, call the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at ‪1-866-411-TIPS (8477)

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Morning Notes

Questions About Arlington Woman’s Death — “A search warrant filed in the case supports the theory it was an assisted suicide, according to a friend of [philanthropist Penny Holloway] who was there at the time. He said a doctor also was present. That doctor died three days after Holloway. Her friends said police questioned him before his death.” [NBC Washington]

Apartment Fire On S. Glebe Road — A first floor apartment caught fire Friday night at the newly-renovated Dominion Apartments on S. Glebe Road. [Twitter]

Is Arlington an Actual Amazon HQ? — “Amazon will move thousands of jobs from Seattle to nearby Bellevue, Washington over the next four years… With this move, some are now calling Bellevue the ‘Real HQ2.'” [GeekWire, Inc. Magazine]

Sawdust Art in Arlington — “Alfo-Conce — an ever-expanding group of artisans from Guatemala with a knack for creating beautiful religious iconography out of sawdust — began prep work for their Holy Week art during a meetup in Arlington March 30.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Pedestrian Fatality in Seven Corners — “A woman died overnight as a result of injuries from a crash that occurred just after three yesterday afternoon in the 2900 block of Peyton Randolph Drive.” [Fairfax County Police]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Arlington County Police say the death of an elderly woman this past fall, originally believed to be of natural causes, was actually a homicide.

The police department announced the medical examiner’s determination Friday morning and asked for the public’s help in the case. The finding that the woman was smothered and drugged to death bumps up Arlington’s 2018 homicide count to four.

More from an ACPD press release:

A 2018 death investigation conducted by the Arlington County Police Department has been classified as a homicide.

At approximately 10:49 p.m. on September 28, 2018, police were dispatched to the 2100 block of N. Scott Street for the report of a check on the welfare. Upon arrival, officers located a 72-year-old female deceased inside a residence. At the time of the initial report, the death appeared to be related to natural causes and there was no evidence of a threat to the community.

In accordance with standard procedures, the death was assigned to the Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit for follow-up investigation. Following the collection and review of crime scene evidence, witness interviews and information provided by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the incident has been classified as a homicide.

The victim has been identified as Penelope Holloway of Arlington, Virginia. Cause of death was determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner as smothering and mixed drug.

The investigation has determined this to be an isolated incident with no threat to the community. The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Detective J. Senn of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4049 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

This is the fourth reported homicide in Arlington County in 2018.

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