Arlington, VA

Police are releasing new photos, video and information in the year-old unsolved murder of a 24-year-old man in a Ballston apartment.

Scott Ratigan was founded bloodied and unresponsive in his bedroom, at the AVA Ballston Square apartment building (850 N. Randolph Street), around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2020. Police now say he suffered “trauma to the upper body.”

ARLnow reported at the time that the 911 caller — now identified as a relative of Ratigan — reported a strong smell of bleach in the apartment. Police now say that “evidence recovered at the scene indicates the suspect(s) attempted to clean the crime scene prior to fleeing the residence.”

Today, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the crime, Arlington County police also released video and three surveillance images of a “person of interest” — seen leaving the area while wearing a mask, before that became commonplace during the pandemic.

“The individual is described as a White male, approximately 5’6″ – 5’8″ tall, weighing 150 – 175 lbs, dressed in all black, carrying a black backpack and walking with his feet turned inward, often referred to as a pigeon-toed gait,” ACPD said. “Detectives would like to identify and speak with this individual.”

Several months ago, an ARLnow reporter observed detectives holding large poles in the courtyard between the apartment building and Wilson Blvd, perhaps in an effort to ascertain the person’s height. Until this morning’s press release, police have steadfastly declined to divulge additional details about the case in response to numerous inquiries from ARLnow.

The Ratigan family is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the murder case.

The full ACPD press release and additional surveillance images are below.

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is seeking the public’s assistance identifying a person of interest captured in surveillance video as they continue to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of 24-year-old Scott Ratigan one year ago. The Ratigan family has established a reward fund of $25,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) involved in Scott’s homicide.

At approximately 5:29 p.m. on January 17, 2020, police were dispatched to the 800 block of N. Randolph Street for the report of cardiac arrest. Upon arrival, it was determined a relative of the victim entered his bedroom after becoming concerned he had not recently been heard from. The adult male victim was located inside his bedroom suffering from trauma to the upper body and was pronounced deceased on scene by medics. An autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. Evidence recovered at the scene indicates the suspect(s) attempted to clean the crime scene prior to fleeing the residence.

Surveillance video recovered from an exterior camera shows a person of interest leaving the area around the suspected time of the homicide. The individual is described as a White male, approximately 5’6″ – 5’8″ tall, weighing 150 – 175 lbs, dressed in all black, carrying a black backpack and walking with his feet turned inward, often referred to as a pigeon-toed gait. Detectives would like to identify and speak with this individual.

To date, detectives have conducted an intensive investigation into this incident including collecting information, analyzing crime scene evidence, speaking with witnesses and canvasing the area near the crime scene. Detectives continue to actively follow investigative leads in this case but believe there is someone, somewhere with information that will allow us to solve this case and seek justice on behalf of the Ratigan family. If you have information in this case, no matter how insignificant you may feel it is, we implore you to come forward and speak with detectives.

Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]

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Morning Notes

A First for ACFD — “A veteran firefighter in Arlington County, Virginia, is breaking barriers as she rises through the ranks. Tiffanye Wesley is the first African American woman named deputy fire chief in all of Northern Virginia.” [NBC 4]

County Wants Feedback on Camera Policy — ” The Arlington County Police Department, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshals’ Office are seeking the public’s input and feedback on draft Digital Evidence Management System policies, regulating digital audio and video recordings captured by body worn cameras, in-car cameras, and interview room cameras.” [Arlington County]

Guilty Plea in Murder Case — “Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, 54, pleaded guilty in Stafford County Circuit Court on Monday morning in the killing of 28-year-old Marta Haydee Rodriguez, who was last seen walking to a bus stop in Arlington, Virginia, in April 1989.” [WTOP, Washington Post]

Vehicle and Business Break-ins — Arlington County police are investigating a pair of business burglaries in the Rosslyn area, and series of vehicle break-ins in the Barcroft neighborhood, according to Monday’s crime report. [ACPD]

Gov. Backs Marijuana Legalization — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that he will introduce and support legislation to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The announcement comes as the Northam Administration prepares to release a report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana.” [Commonwealth of Virginia]

Amazon Order Boosts 23rd Street — “By early May, more than 400 meals a day were leaving the Freddie’s kitchen and reaching firefighters, police, hospitals, and area residents in low-income housing… Due to the size of Amazon’s order, he enlisted a dozen other nearby restaurants. This joint effort ‘breathed life, energy, and activity into the independent restaurants that make up the core of 23rd Street.'” [Amazon]

Reopening Groups Blast Teachers — “Our coalitions of over 5,300 parents, teachers and Northern Virginia residents unite today to express dismay and concern of the latest efforts by a group of Northern Virginia education associations pushing Governor Northam to remove the option for in-person school for all of Virginia’s children.” [Arlington Parents for Education]

Local Districts Pause Reopening — “As COVID-19 cases surge, Fairfax County Public Schools will delay bringing back early HeadStart, pre-K and kindergarten students, plus some students who receive special education services… [and] Falls Church City Public Schools announced Tuesday that they will temporarily ‘pause’ in-person learning for the week of Thanksgiving.” [NBC 4, InsideNova, Washington Post]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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The father of a man killed in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood this spring has been arrested and charged with his murder.

Marshall Stephens, 45, was found dead the evening of April 23, in the driver’s seat of a car parked on the 1900 block of S. Lowell Street. Police said Thursday that 65-year-old Marshall Stephens, Sr. shot and killed his son in a “domestic-related homicide.”

The victim was an Arlington resident while the elder Stephens is a resident of Baltimore County, Maryland. Stephens, Sr. is currently being held in the Arlington County jail on a charge of murder and a weapons violation.

More from Arlington County police:

The investigation determined this incident to be a domestic-related homicide. Marshall Stephens Sr., 65, of Parkville, MD, has been arrested and charged with Murder and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

A police spokeswoman said the department does not speculate about motives and did not have any additional information to release.

Stephens’ death was the second of three homicides so far this year in Arlington.

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(Updated at 8:45 p.m.) An arrest has been made after a deadly stabbing at the Pentagon Metro station Monday morning.

The incident happened shortly before 9 a.m. According to initial reports, a person was stabbed in the neck on one of the platforms. Police are now looking for the suspect.

The victim was pronounced dead at a local hospital, Metro Transit Police said later Monday morning. The station was closed for a police investigation, with trains bypassing the station, but reopened around 2:30 p.m.

This is the second reported homicide in Arlington so far this year.

A passerby described to ARLnow a gruesome scene.

“I walked when the police were running into the Metro,” said the witness. “I almost stepped in the blood and looked over to see the man lying motionless on the ground… [there was] blood everywhere on the ground.”

That was repeated by others on social media:

Monday night, Metro Transit Police reported that they had made an arrest in the case: a 27-year-old man who will now face second degree murder charges.

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A Maryland man awaiting trial in the murder of Ballston resident John Giandoni has died in jail.

Jitesh Patel, 43, “was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility” early Monday, the county said in a press release late Monday afternoon. “Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Nurses began immediate resuscitation efforts after finding Mr. Patel, before Fire Department rescue units arrived.”

Patel was pronounced dead by paramedics just after 6 a.m.

Patel has been in jail since July 26, 2018. In a preliminary court hearing, prosecutors said that Patel brutally killed Giandoni, his lover’s ex-boyfriend, after laying in wait in Giandoni’s townhouse.

Giandoni was found dead on March 16 after being strangled, shot and stabbed.

The full press release about Patel’s death is below.

Jitesh Patel, 43, died in the early hours of November 11, after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Nurses began immediate resuscitation efforts after finding Mr. Patel, before Fire Department rescue units arrived. He was pronounced dead by Medic 110 at 0605 hours at the scene.

Mr. Patel had been incarcerated since July 26, 2018 awaiting trial after being charged with Homicide.

His family was informed of his death this afternoon.

Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Following standard procedure, the death is being investigated by the Arlington County Police Department. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703.228.4243 or at [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1.866.411.TIPS (8477).

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Morning Notes

Heavy Seas Alehouse to Close — “Heavy Seas Alehouse, the restaurant affiliated with the Baltimore-area brewery, will close its doors in Rosslyn by the end of October, one of its principals said Thursday. The restaurant plans to close Oct. 27, said Mike Morris, a partner in Monogram Hospitality, which operates Heavy Seas Alehouse.” [Washington Business Journal]

Real Estate Costs Going Down? — “In every major jurisdiction of the local area, the median per-square-foot price for housing for the January-through-September period declined, in many cases by double digits, according to new figures reported Oct. 11… Arlington led all local jurisdictions for the nine-month period, but its median per-square-foot cost of $436 was down 6.8 percent from $468.” [InsideNova]

Kaine to Talk Vaping at Arlington School — “On Friday, October 18, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will hold a roundtable discussion on efforts to address the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. The discussion at Montessori Public School of Arlington will include students, teachers, counselors, parents, health experts, and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.” [Press Release]

Road Closures for Festival in Shirlington — “The Shirlington Shucktoberfest, sponsored by the Copperwood Tavern, will take place on Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  Set up will begin at approximately 6:00 a.m. and cleanup should be completed by 7:00 p.m. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures…” [Arlington County]

Arlington Woman’s Alleged Killer Charged — “The killer of Pamela Butler, a Washington, D.C., federal worker who disappeared before Valentine’s Day in 2009, has been charged in the 1989 death of his wife. Marta Haydee Rodriguez-Cruz disappeared from Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. Her remains were found along Interstate 95 in Stafford County in 1991 but weren’t positively identified until 2018. Her husband, Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, also dated Butler for a time.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Man Convicted in Child Sex Sting — “An Arlington man is among more than 300 people arrested worldwide in connection with a website that authorities describe as the largest child sexual exploitation operation of its kind ever discovered in terms of the volume of content. Ammar Atef H. Alahdali, 22, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.” [Patch]

Nearby: Birding Store Near Fairlington Closing — “After 33 years, birding and nature store One Good Tern (1710 Fern Street) near Fairlington is closing as longtime owner Charles Studholme faces a grim kidney failure diagnosis.” [ALXnow]

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Morning Notes

Shooting Suspect Served Time for MurderUpdated at 8:40 a.m. — Crystal City shooting suspect Mumeet Ali Muhammad was released from prison two years ago after being convicted of a 1991 murder in Arlington. And he had recently been arrested but then released after allegedly threatening to shoot a man in D.C. and possessing a gun as a felon. [WTOP, NBC 4]

Witness Recounts Hiding in Office During Shooting — “An association employee described the scene to InsideNoVa on Thursday, saying recent active-shooter training helped employees get through the terrifying episode. ‘Everybody did precisely what they should have done,’ said the employee, who asked that his name not be published… ‘I got right up next to door, crouched down and made myself as small as possible,’ he said. ‘I heard screaming, him yelling at her, her pleading with him.'” [InsideNova]

Labor Day Closures in Arlington — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 for Labor Day.” Trash and recycling will be collected as normal, but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]

Amazon Brain Drain Worries — “Amazon is only just starting to post job openings for its second headquarters in northern Virginia — and local startup founders are watching with apprehension. The big picture: Amazon HQ2 has the potential to turn the D.C. region into a tech hotspot, but smaller companies are worried that the short-term impact of Amazon coming to town will be a brain drain.” [Axios]

‘Clarendon Jam Session’ Sunday — “The long weekend is almost here and it’s time to celebrate with a jam session at The Lot in an urban beach party setting! $20 gets you access to CLARENDON JAM SESSION 2019.” [Instagram]

Oktoberfest Ticket Prices Increasing — Early bird $30 ticket pricing for the Crystal City Oktoberfest ends this weekend. General admission tickets will be $45 thereafter. [Eventbrite]

Dominion Funding Electric School Buses — “Schools across Virginia could have all-electric school buses by 2030, under a plan from Dominion Energy. The company said it could be the largest deployment of electric school buses in the nation… The announcement comes the same day as a Virginia State Corporation Commission reported that Dominion’s 2018 profits were higher than regulators approved.” [WAMU, Dominion, Virginia Mercury]

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Tebebe Makonnen, charged with murder after a woman’s death at the Embassy Suites in Crystal City, avoided a lengthy jail sentence on a previous charge thanks to a plea deal earlier this year.

The victim, who fell from an upper floor of the hotel onto the interior lobby restaurant below around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, was identified as Makonnen’s mother, multiple news outlets reported. According to WUSA 9, Makonnen and his mother, 63-year-old Zelalem Abedje, were living in the hotel.

Makonnen was arraigned Wednesday morning before Judge George Varoutsos in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court, prosecutors say. He’s due back in court for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

In January, Makonnen struck a plea deal with prosecutors in connection to an incident last year, in which he was accused of inappropriately touching an employee at Virginia Hospital Center’s Behavioral Health Unit. The original charge of sexual battery was downgraded to disorderly conduct, and a Circuit Court judge agreed to a recommended 12-month jail sentence, with the entire sentence suspended — making Makonnen a free man, on the condition of treatment for mental health issues.

“The Commonwealth felt it was important that mental health treatment be a component of any disposition in the Circuit Court,” outgoing Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos told ARLnow.

Stamos continued:

Our office agreed to amend the sexual battery to disorderly conduct (also a Class 1 misdemeanor) with an agreed recommendation of 12 months in jail, all suspended for one year, with the added conditions that the defendant remain compliant with his mental health treatment under the supervision of [Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services] as well as refrain from any contact with the victim. Judge Louise DiMatteo ordered the defendant to return to court on January 10, 2020 to review his compliance. Defense counsel made a strong argument that the amendment to disorderly conduct would allow the defendant to avail himself of a broader range of treatment options as programs often don’t allow individuals with sex-related convictions in their programs.

However, in a video posted in March 2018 (below), two months before the Virginia Hospital Center incident, Makonnen talks into a camera and argues that antipsychotic medication has ruined his life.

Makonnen says in the video that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar, but asserts that he was not experiencing any symptoms. He says forced hospitalization is “ridiculous,” the medication he was given “would make me a zombie,” and forced medication is an “injustice.”

Arlington County Police are aware of the video, spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow yesterday.

Stamos and Savage declined to comment further on the pending murder charge. In addition to murder, Arlington Circuit Court records indicate Makonnen is also being charged with disobeying a court order.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) An Arlington man has been arrested and charged with murder after a woman fell from an upper floor of a Crystal City hotel early this morning.

Police were called to a hotel on the 1300 block of Richmond Highway — which corresponds to the Embassy Suites by Hilton Crystal City National Airport — for a report of a woman who fell from a height onto the hotel lobby below.

The victim, who died at the scene, was identified as 63-year-old Arlington resident Zelalem Abedje. Following an initial investigation, police arrested a 27-year-old man for murder.

“The circumstances preceding the fall remain under investigation,” police said in a press release, below. “Tebebe Makonnen, 27, has been charged with Murder and is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.”

Last year Makonnen was arrested in Arlington and charged with sexual battery in connection with a reported assault of a woman inside a local medical office.

Including today’s incident, there have been three homicides in Arlington County in 2019 so far.

More from an ACPD press release:

Arlington County Police announce the arrest of an Arlington man following a suspicious death investigation in Crystal City. Tebebe Makonnen, 27, has been charged with Murder and is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.

At approximately 1:38 a.m. on August 20, police were dispatched to the 1300 block of Richmond Highway for the report of an EMS assist. Upon arrival, an adult female was located deceased inside the lobby of a hotel after falling from an upper floor. The circumstances preceding the fall remain under investigation.

The victim has been identified as Zelalem Abedje, 63, of Arlington, Virginia. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Based on the preliminary investigation, this appears to be an isolated incident with no ongoing threat to the public.

Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective R. Munizza of the department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4171 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2) via Embassy Suites

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Morning Notes

Overturned Vehicle on GW Parkway — “The northbound George Washington Parkway was closed [past Key Bridge] during Tuesday morning’s rush hour after a vehicle overturned, authorities said… The southbound side of the parkway was also affected.” [Washington Post]

Transgender Policy Discussion at School Board Meeting — “Students, parents and advocates packed the [Arlington school] board meeting to loudly back [a transgender non-discrimination] plan, waving miniature LGBT and transgender pride flags to signal agreement with the nearly three dozen speakers who proclaimed support… Supporters on Tuesday vastly outnumbered those who turned out to protest the plans.” [Washington Post]

Good Samaritan Murder Trial — “The Good Samaritan who intervened to try to stop a sexual assault in Arlington last fall was beaten so badly it was impossible to tell what killed him, a medical examiner testified Monday.” [Washington Post]

Feds Giving Grant to DCA — “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International both will see millions in funding from the FAA for improvements. DCA is slated to get $4,921,500 in funding.” [WUSA 9, Press Release]

ACFD Chief Battalion Honored — “Chief Wesley was recognized at the event for being the #first #AfricanAmericanWoman Battalion Chief not only in @ArlingtonVA but also the entire Northern Virginia region.” [Twitter]

Amazon HQ2 Jobs Update — There are currently 63 positions listed on Amazon’s HQ2 jobs page, many of them technical. Recently listed job titles include “Region Build Technical Program Manager,” “Full Stack Software Development Engineer” and “Systems Development Manager, Cloud Computing Operations.” [Amazon]

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