Arlington, VA

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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Morning Notes

TMZ Gets Rosario Dawson Scoop at DCA — “Rosario Dawson’s all in on Cory Booker for President in 2020, but she might be a little biased … because she just confirmed with us … they’re in a serious, loving relationship!!! The actress was at the Reagan National Airport in D.C. Thursday when our guy quizzed her on what’s been widely rumored.” [TMZ]

Board OKs Queens Court Loans, Again — “The Arlington County Board today cleared the way for replacing a 39-unit garden style apartment complex in Rosslyn, built in 1940, with 249 units committed to remain affordable for 75 years. The Queens Court property, at the corner of N. Quinn Street and Key Boulevard, is part of the Western Rosslyn Area Plan adopted by the County Board in 2015.” [Arlington County]

Yellow Line to Be Extended — “Metro plans to extend service on the Yellow and Red lines. The Yellow Line will finally go past Mount Vernon Square during rush hour again, and even past Fort Totten, all the way to Greenbelt. This change would double service at rush hour and ‘address current crowding conditions at the nine stations north of Mount Vernon Square.'” [DCist]

Vigil for Murdered Arlington Man — “John Giandoni had a beautiful son, a loving family, and a great job. It was all ripped away one year ago… Friday night at 7:30 p.m., John’s family and friends are holding a candlelight vigil in Ballston on the first anniversary of his death.” [WJLA]

Neighborhood College Applications Open — “Learn how to become a neighborhood advocate and effect change through Arlington County’s free Neighborhood College program, which will meet on eight consecutive Thursday evenings beginning April 25.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Murder Case Advances After Court Ruling — “The Maryland man charged with brutally killing his lover’s ex-boyfriend laid in wait at his Arlington town house before strangling, shooting and stabbing the man to death, prosecutors said.” On Monday, an Arlington judge “ruled there is probable cause [Jitesh] Patel killed 40-year-old John Giandoni in March 2018.” [WTOP]

Food Safety Tips for the Holidays — Arlington’s health department has compiled a list of safety tips for those cooking holiday meals at home. Regarding turkey, which has been blamed for a recent salmonella outbreak, the department notes that “food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to poultry-associated food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States.” [Arlington County]

Car Safety Tips for the Holidays — “This Thanksgiving season, the Arlington County Police Department is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to share an important lifesaving reminder: whether you’re traveling across the country, or across the County, Buckle Up–Every Trip. Every Time.” [Arlington County]

Airport Tips for the Holidays — Per Reagan National Airport on Twitter: “Peak holiday travel continues today. Roadway delays are likely. To avoid congested roadways, use Metrorail. Or use Terminal Garages A, B or C for pick-up/drop-off and park for up to 60 minutes.” [Twitter]

Commuters Still Angry About Veterans Day Mess — Many who were stuck in traffic or waiting in long shuttle lines on Veterans Day are still not buying “Metro’s explanation that the day’s rain, and not Metro’s own planning, was the main culprit for what the agency acknowledged on Twitter was ‘a disastrous commute.'” [Washington Post]

Amazon News Roundup — A local think tank argues that “when put in the context of the Metro region’s history, the ‘Amazon effect’ is an unimpressive flare in the region’s chronic housing crisis.” One local urban planner thinks “Amazon choosing a second-tier city could have been more destructive.” Alexandria leaders say Amazon will be an “economic boom, not traffic nightmare.” Finally, there’s more information on the Amazon-fueled deals to build a second entrance to the new Potomac Yard Metro station and open a new Virginia Tech campus in Alexandria.

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Morning Notes

Suspect and Murdered Wife Both Marines — “A woman found dead in [an Arlington] hotel room on Saturday and the man arrested in connection with her murder are both U.S. Marines… The two were seen earlier in the evening at the Marriott while attending their unit’s military ball to commemorate the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday.” [Newsweek, Task and Purpose]

Arlingtonian Named ABC 7’s Hero of the Week — “In his dedication to the community, Aaron Codispoti switches gears constantly — in the truest sense of the word. He manages a team of more than a thousand people within the State Department, volunteers as an auxiliary police officer with Arlington County — often on bike patrol — and organizes blood drives twice a year.” [WJLA]

Crafthouse Going National — Ballston restaurant Crafthouse is taking its craft beer and elevated pub food formula national. The company, which also has locations in Fairfax and Reston, is preparing for rapid expansion via franchising. [Reston Now]

Local Entrepreneurs Mostly Looking Forward to Amazon — Though Amazon’s anticipated arrival in Crystal City could come with rent and hiring challenges, local entrepreneurs are mostly looking forward to the excitement and amenities the tech giant will bring to the area. [Forbes]

Amazon May Make Defense Hiring Harder — “If Amazon.com Inc. puts part of its second headquarters in Crystal City — as signs are pointing to this week — it could make defense hiring in the region even more competitive. The Seattle-based e-commerce and cloud computing company is already pursuing new deals in the defense and intelligence sectors, industry execs tell The Wall Street Journal, and an expanded presence in Greater Washington — home to thousands of government contractors — would put a strain on a market stretched by a dearth of workers holding proper security clearances.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Looking for Driver Who Brandished Gun — Arlington County Police are investigating a road rage incident along Columbia Pike in which one driver “pulled over, exited his vehicle, and following a verbal dispute, allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened the other driver.” [Arlington County]

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Friends and family of the Arlington man killed as he tried to stop a sexual assault plan to celebrate his life this weekend, remembering him as a kind, generous and “decidedly decent” person.

Arlington police say 54-year-old Patricio Salazar attempted to intervene when he saw another man, 27-year-old Michael Nash, sexually assaulting a woman near Doctor’s Run Park last Thursday (Oct. 18). Investigators claim that Nash struck Salazar and ultimately knocked him unconscious. Salazar died from his injuries a short time later.

Salazar’s family has organized a memorial service this Saturday (Oct. 27) at a local funeral home. In lieu of flowers, his family is asking people to donate to an online fundraiser that will benefit survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence, with plans to divide the money between a local charity and an organization in Salazar’s hometown of La Paz, Bolivia.

“My brother was very smart, funny, unassuming and humble about his gifts and talents,” Loty Salazar, Patricio’s sister, wrote in a description accompanying the GoFundMe page. “And, as he showed by his final act of great courage, he was a man of integrity and character, who believed in doing the right thing no matter what the cost. My family and I are at a loss to describe the depth of pain we are feeling. He has left us — and this world — far too soon, because we — and the world — really need heroes like him.”

Salazar’s sister declined a request for an interview, but his family did write in an online obituary that he attended college in Bolivia before transfering to the University of North Dakota, and eventually settling in Arlington.

Will Rubens, a Ballston resident and one of Salazar’s friends, told ARLnow that Salazar had lived in the county for close to 15 years. He first met Salazar at the old Greene Turtle bar in Ballston a few years ago, where they bonded over a shared love of sports, and the occasional beer.

“He was just a really warm, friendly, kind of goofy guy,” Rubens said. “He just had such a goofy lightness about him that immediately put a smile on your face. Most of our interactions were just joking around, and it always kind of made my day. You never knew exactly when you would run into him, so it was always a nice surprise.”

Rubens says Salazar had a passion for international soccer, the San Jose Sharks and the Oakland Raiders. But he was also a guitarist in his spare time, and loved attending local concerts, Rubens said.

His family added in the obituary that Salazar, known to his friends as “Pat,” had a passion for nature and animals and “was an avid walker and always longed for Bolivia and his Andean mountains.”

Rubens says that Salazar would return to La Paz fairly regularly to visit his family there, though he did also have some family around the D.C. area. In fact, Rubens says Salazar had offered to bring him back a memento after his next trip back home, in order to help Rubens complete his collection of fridge magnets from places he’s traveled for work.

“He was supposed to visit his family for Christmas and now that’s not to be, which is really sad… but I think it shows just what kind of guy Pat was,” Rubens said.

Rubens says he “felt like a freight train hit me” when he learned of Salazar’s death, as the two had just crossed paths a few days before his killing.

“I’m not surprised at all that he got involved, I think it was very brave of him,” Rubens said. “But Pat was not the kind of guy where he would’ve rushed in, guns blazing… he had no illusions of grandeur, he was not that kind of guy. But he always would’ve stopped if he saw somebody in need.”

Police arrested Nash this past Friday (Oct. 19), charging him with several counts related to the alleged sexual assault. He has yet to be charged in connection with Salazar’s death, but police say additional charges are likely forthcoming.

Nash is set for his first hearing in Arlington General District Court on Jan. 16.

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A Washington, D.C. man is now facing 23 years behind bars, after pleading guilty to shooting and killing a man at a party in Williamsburg last year.

Jason Allen Johnson, 39, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and two gun charges on Tuesday (July 31), averting the need for a trial previously set for September.

Investigators believe Johnson got into an argument with 23-year-old Michael Gray of Manassas on Feb. 17, 2017 while the pair attended a party at a home on the 6300 block of 29th Street N., not far from Bishop O’Connell High School. Police believe Johnson then shot Gray, who later died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.

Johnson managed to flee the scene before police arrived, and he was only arrested in October after he was caught shoplifting in New York City. He was initially charged with first degree murder, before pleading to a lesser charge this week.

“Mr. Gray tragically lost his life to a senseless act of violence by Jason Allen Johnson,” Arlington County Deputy Police Chief Daniel Murray wrote in a statement. “This sentence is a result of the commitment of our detectives to continue to pursue this case and hold Johnson accountable for his actions, despite fleeing from the commonwealth. Although nothing will return the victim to his family, we hope this sentence will provide closure to the victim’s family knowing that this violent criminal will be behind bars for a significant amount of time.”

Photo courtesy of Arlington County Police

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Arlington County police have arrested a Maryland man in connection with the county’s first murder of the year in Ballston this March.

County police have charged 42-year-old Jitesh Vitthal Patel of Woodbine, Maryland with murder, burglary while armed and possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony. Police believe he was involved in the killing of John Giandoni, a Woodbridge native found dead in his home along the 4100 block of 11th Place N. on March 16.

Police believe Giandoni, who was 40, died after suffering gunshot wounds inside the home.

“Arlington County police detectives commenced an intensive four-month investigation, reviewing crime scene evidence and conducting numerous interviews,” the department wrote in a statement. “This review revealed additional information about Patel’s relationship to the victim that led detectives to identify him as the suspect.”

Police arrested Patel in Howard County, Maryland on Friday (July 20). He’s being held in the Howard County Detention Center as he await extradition back to Arlington.

Giandoni was a father of one who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton and was active in the Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans.

Photo via YouCaring

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On a summer day in 1988, prosecutor Helen Fahey addressed an Arlington jury. It was the sentencing phase in a six-day long capital murder trial.

“Something is terribly, terribly wrong with Timothy Spencer,” she said.

That trial opened 30 years ago this month, on July 11, 1988. It ended with a death sentence.

Spencer, sometimes known as the “South Side Strangler,” was convicted for the brutal rape and murder of Susan Tucker, a 44-year-old Fairlington resident. He would eventually accumulate three more death sentences for similar killings in and around Richmond.

The story is significant in American legal and scientific history because it represents the nation’s first capital murder conviction based on DNA evidence. No serial killer in any country had previously been convicted with DNA.

Richmond-based writer Richard Foster is chronicling the story in painstaking detail through a 10-episode podcast, entitled Southern Nightmare.

“The fact is there was no other evidence directly linking Spencer to the scene besides the DNA,” Foster said. “That’s what’s really so groundbreaking about this case.”

Foster spoke with sources including homicide detectives, FBI profilers and friends and family of Spencer’s victims to outline a chilling tale of escalating criminal behavior, tragedy and the struggle for justice.

Years earlier, from summer 1983 through January 1984, investigators believe Spencer committed a series of crimes including eight rapes in and near Arlington in what Foster describes as a “seven-month terroristic campaign.”

Those crimes culminated in Spencer’s first murder, in the 23rd Street S. home of lawyer Carolyn Hamm.

That January, the attacks abruptly stopped, only to resume in September 1987 with the rape and murder of Debbie Davis, a 35-year-old Richmond resident.

As Foster relays in the podcast, Arlington County detective Joe Horgas discovered that this timeline lined up with a prison stint for Spencer — he was arrested for an Alexandria burglary in January 1984, and released to a halfway house in Richmond in September 1987.

When Horgas visited the halfway house in Richmond, he found something else. Spencer had been signed out of the house when each of the murders occurred, and he had furlough to visit his mother in Arlington when Susan Tucker was killed.

Arlington detectives arrested Spencer in Richmond on Jan. 20, 1988 with a grand jury indictment for burglary, rape and murder.

Spencer was never tried for the 1983-84 crimes or for Hamm’s murder. The DNA left behind at the Hamm murder scene had degraded beyond usefulness, and he had received death sentences for the other murders.

But Spencer’s implication in the Hamm case led Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles to pardon David Vasquez, who had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for Hamm’s murder after submitting an Alford plea — not admitting guilt, but conceding that there was enough evidence to convict him.

Vasquez’s sentence “was an obvious miscarriage of justice and it’s very sad,” Foster said. “[Vasquez] was a man who functioned at about the level of a 10-year-old depending on the situation.”

The Spencer case, in spite of its significance, seems to be “one of those cases that… fell through the cracks, historically,” Foster said.

At the time, DNA evidence was quite new to the courtroom, and there was uncertainty over whether juries would accept it. This case “made it so it wasn’t as difficult to put on DNA cases… in the future,” Foster said.

Without DNA evidence in Spencer’s trials, “I definitely don’t think they would’ve gotten the four convictions they got,” Foster said. “I think that would’ve been a lot tougher.”

Spencer was executed April 27, 1994 — the last person in Virginia to be put to death with the electric chair.

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

Construction Kicks Off at The Berkeley — Work is underway on The Berkeley, and “obsolete” apartment building at 2900-2910 S. Glebe Road that is doing a significant redevelopment. The $100 million project will turn the 137 units currently on the site into 256 apartments. [Multi-Housing News]

Remains May Be Linked to Missing Person Case — Remains found in Stafford County are reportedly those of a woman who went missing in Arlington in 1989. The missing woman’s husband — Jose Rodriguez-Cruz, who’s currently in jail for another woman’s murder — told police at the time that his wife left and was living in the Miami area. Later D.C. police learned that it was his second wife’s sister, who had assumed the identity of Rodriguez-Cruz’s first wife. [Fox 5]

Vida Fitness Eyeing Rosslyn Location — “[Vida Fitness] has a letter of intent for space in western Rosslyn, owner David von Storch told the Business Journal… The location — which will include SweatBox, a boutique studio within a gym that offers high-intensity interval training in a fast-paced, heart-monitored workout — would open in the fourth quarter of 2020. Von Storch already has a deal to open a Vida in Ballston.” [Washington Business Journal]

ACPD Motor Squad Escorts the Caps — Members of the Arlington County Police Department’s motorcycle squad helped escort the Washington Capitals and the Stanley Cup in yesterday’s victory parade in D.C. Other regional police agencies, including Montgomery County Police, also participated. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Cemetery Flyover Planned Today — Expect to see a military flyover today around 1:45 p.m., in support of a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. [Twitter]

Grant to Pay for Reforestation — “Arlington County government officials will accept about $9,700 in federal funds to restore nearly four acres of riparian buffer along Four Mile Run. The grant will fund purchase of more than 1,000 tree and shrub seedlings to be planted in areas that have been treated for removal of invasive plants.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Convicted of Murder — “On Friday, April 13, 2018, a Charles County jury, after a 5 day trial, convicted Bryan Javier Aquice, 25, of Arlington, VA. of the First Degree Murder of Michael Beers.” [Southern Maryland News Net]

Disgusting Discovery Prompts Call to Police — A woman called police after she reportedly found a used condom on the hood of her car in Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood. [Twitter]

Nearby: New Company HQ in Falls Church — Investment firm Kiddar Capital will be relocating its headquarters to a new office building in the City of Falls Church. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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A federal grand jury indicted an Arlington man yesterday (March 15) on charges relating to alleged MS-13 gang involvement.

Luis Arnoldo Flores-Reyes, also known as Maloso or Lobo, 37, is alleged to have been engaged in “a racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, drug trafficking, murder and a conspiracy to commit murder” as a member of MS-13’s Sailors Clique.

He is charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion.

Prosecutors say Flores-Reyes trafficked marijuana and cocaine Langley Park, Md., and extorted illegal business owners in Langley Park and Wheaton, Md. He is also accused of ordering the murders of rival gang members in Houston, Texas.

MS-13 is an international gang with ties to El Salvador and is one of America’s largest street gangs.

More from a U.S. Justice Department press release:

A federal grand jury returned an indictment yesterday charging an alleged MS-13 member residing in Arlington, Virginia with

The indictment was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan; Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Andre Watson of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI Washington Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; Chief Douglas Holland of the Hyattsville Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

Luis Arnoldo Flores-Reyes, aka Maloso and Lobo, 37, is charged in a four-count superseding indictment that alleges that from at least 2015 through January 2018, he was a member and associate of the Sailors Clique of MS-13 and that he engaged in a racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, drug trafficking, murder and a conspiracy to commit murder. The defendant is also charged with drug trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion. Flores-Reyes is in custody.

According to the indictment, MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland. Eleven other individuals were previously charged in this case with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, drug trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion.

For a period of time beginning at least in 2015 through in or about 2017, members of the Sailors Clique, including Flores-Reyes, are alleged to have extorted owners of illegal businesses in the Langley Park and Wheaton areas of Maryland, with the extortion proceeds being sent to El Salvador to benefit MS-13. In addition, between 2015 and 2018, members of the Sailors clique, including Flores-Reyes, are alleged to have trafficked narcotics, including marijuana and cocaine in Langley Park, Maryland, with the proceeds benefiting the gang.

More specifically, in January 2018, Flores-Reyes gave directions to members of MS-13 in Houston, Texas that they should purchase a gun and shoot rival gang members who were believed to have killed a member of MS-13. On or about Jan. 28, 2018, members of MS-13 in Houston, Texas shot at and attempted to kill suspected rival gang members while Flores-Reyes and other MS-13 members, including MS-13 members in El Salvador, monitored the shooting by phone.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

Trial Attorney Catherine K. Dick of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William D. Moomau and Daniel C. Gardner of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland are prosecuting this case.

Photo via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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