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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.

A 2018 surveillance image of Columbia Pike rape suspect Salodus Zeloter Hicks (photo courtesy ACPD)

A D.C. man convicted of raping a massage therapist in a Columbia Pike apartment building in 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison.

It was the second rape conviction for 63-year-old Salodus Zeloter Hicks, thus leading to the lengthy sentence from Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo.

Hicks was arrested less than a week after the crime, after a 16-hour standoff at a home in Northwest D.C. Arlington County police were assisted by D.C. police and the FBI; Hicks was safely apprehended after he finally surrendered.

In a statement, Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn called Hicks “a sexual predator [who] will never have the opportunity to target another member of our community.” Arlington’s top prosecutor, Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, said the sentence “is severe, but warranted.”

More from a county press release, below.

After being found guilty by an Arlington County jury in September, Salodus Zeloter Hicks, 63, of Washington D.C. was sentenced on Friday, February 25, 2022, to life in prison plus 12 months for a rape that occurred in 2018. Judge DiMatteo imposed a sentence of life in prison on the charge of rape (2nd offense) and 12 months on the charge of assault & battery.

At approximately 4:02 p.m. on September 17, 2018, police responded to the 5500 block of Columbia Pike for the late report of a rape. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim and suspect made contact through an online advertisement for massage therapy. After the suspect arrived for the massage appointment, he asked for sexual services and when the victim refused, he strangled and raped her.

Following the assault, the suspect fled the scene but was captured on surveillance video. A press release requesting the public’s assistance helped identify Hicks as the suspect. On the evening of September 26, 2018, detectives attempted to execute search and arrest warrants on the suspect at his residence in NW Washington, D.C. The suspect refused to exit the residence and following a 16-hour barricade, he surrendered and was taken into police custody with assistance by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Metropolitan Police Department. Once in custody, the search warrant was executed and additional evidence linking him to the rape was recovered.

“Mr. Hicks never made any statements about what occurred, but the evidence did all the talking for him,” said Chief Andy Penn. “The persistent investigative work and prosecution led to an ultimate sentence that ensures a sexual predator will never have the opportunity to target another member of our community.”

“I’m grateful to the survivor for her courage in testifying against her attacker, and to the police and our trial team for their dedication in investigating and prosecuting the case,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. “A life sentence is severe, but warranted, because Mr. Hicks previously had been convicted of rape. Our duty first, last, and always is to protect the community from the sort of harm Mr. Hicks caused while affording him a fair trial, and we did that.”

Morning Notes

Four Mile Run in Shirlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Rapist Gets Life in Prison — “Michael F. Thomson, 65, of Montross, VA pled guilty and was sentenced on Friday, February 11, 2022, in the Arlington County Circuit Court to life in prison plus 56 years for his role in a 1991 cold case rape series. Judge DiMatteo imposed a sentence of life in prison on one count of rape, 50 years on a second count of rape, 10 years with eight suspended on one count of attempted abduction with intent to defile, and two years each on two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of the rapes.” [ACPD]

Police Auditor Bill May Pass — “Bills acceding to a request by the Arlington County Board to employ a police auditor have won approval in each house of the General Assembly, suggesting the measure likely will make it the desk of Gov. Youngkin… Adding a police auditor responsible to the board, rather than county manager, was one of the recommendations when County Board members in 2021 approved revisions to policing policies in the county.” [Sun Gazette]

Fire Depts. Adjust to Bridge Issues — “How bad are structural issues with the T.R. Bridge? It isn’t just the public impacted by emergency repairs. STATter911 has learned both @ArlingtonVaFD & @dcfireems are restricting how fire apparatus can access the bridge for emergencies.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Today will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 67 and wind gusts as high as 33 mph. Sunrise at 6:56 a.m. and sunset at 5:48 p.m. Rain tonight and Friday morning. Mostly cloudy through mid morning Friday, then gradual clearing, with a high near 54. Breezy, with a northwest wind 16 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph. [Weather.gov]

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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).

Morning Notes

Arlington Diocese Releases List of Accused Priests — “Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses on Wednesday released lists of clergy who officials say were deemed ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing youth… The Diocese of Arlington, which covers the northeastern corner of Virginia, released a list of 16 names.” [Washington Post, Diocese of Arlington]

ACPD Restaurant Initiative Deemed a Success — “Arlington County, Virginia, is trying to fight drunken driving, and its method may prove to be a model for the nation.” [WTOP]

Cristol Quoted in the New Yorker — “‘We have an agenda that is about equity and anti-racist goals, and I don’t think he can effectively lead on it,’ [Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol] said, referring to the governor. As for Fairfax, she said, she had thought, after the first allegation, that ‘there might be a way forward for him to recognize harm done’ and stay in office. After the second, it seemed clear to her that there was an indefensible pattern of behavior.” [The New Yorker]

Arlington Man Arrested for 2016 Rape — “Alexandria Police have arrested a man who they say abducted and raped a lifeguard in broad daylight from a pool on South Pickett Street in 2016.” [Fox 5]

Hope’s Assisted-Living Bill Passes — “The derecho that came through Arlington several years ago inspired me to bring this bill and work to make sure, at a minimum, prospective residents knew whether their assisted living facility had a generator in case of loss of power.” [InsideNova, Twitter]

Sheriff’s Office Helping With Scholarships — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is helping the Virginia Sheriffs’ Institute raise college scholarship funds for Virginia residents majoring in criminal justice.” [Arlington County]

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A man suspected of raping a woman in Arlington has been taken into custody after a 16-hour barricade situation in D.C.

Arlington County Police say Salodus Zeloter Hicks, 60, barricaded himself inside a home on the 3300 block of Mt. Pleasant Street NW after Arlington officers arrived to execute a search and arrest warrant last night (Wednesday). He was taken into custody around 1 p.m. today with the assistance of D.C. police and the FBI.

Hicks is facing charges of forcible rape and strangulation in connection with the Sept. 17 sexual assault of a woman in an apartment building on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike. Police say Hicks, who was caught on surveillance video, met the victim after responding to an online ad.

“During the arranged service, the suspect physically assaulted and raped the victim,” police said in a press release. “Following the assault, the suspect fled the scene on foot.”

Police were vague about the exact nature of the advertisement in order to protect the victim’s identity.

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Arlington County Police are looking for a man who raped a woman in a Columbia Pike apartment building.

The police department is seeking the public’s help in identifying a suspect, who was caught on surveillance video footage released by ACPD this morning.

Police say the crime happened shortly before 4 p.m. Monday — in the Serrano Apartments on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike, ARLnow.com hears — after the suspect responded to an online ad for a service. Police were vague about the exact nature of the advertisement in order to protect the victim’s identity.

More from an ACPD press release, below.

The Arlington County Police Department is seeking assistance from the public identifying a rape suspect caught on surveillance video. At approximately 4:02 p.m. on September 17, police responded to the 5500 block of Columbia Pike for the late report of a rape. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim and suspect made contact through an online advertisement. During the arranged service, the suspect physically assaulted and raped the victim. Following the assault, the suspect fled the scene on foot.

The suspect is described as an approximately 60-year-old black male, 5’10” to 6′ tall with a medium build. He has brown eyes and dark short curly hair with some gray. He was wearing a bright blue shirt with a tan collar, khaki pants, tan shoes and carrying an umbrella at the time of the incident.

Based on the preliminary investigation, it is believed that this was a targeted attack. The investigation is ongoing and there is no known threat to the larger community.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective P. Pena of the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims’ Unit at (703) 228-4183 or at [email protected]. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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

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

Crystal City Tops HQ2 Poll — The combined Crystal City-Potomac Yard site is the most likely D.C. area landing spot for Amazon’s second headquarters, according to an online poll conducted by the Washington Business Journal. Meanwhile, D.C., Virginia and Maryland officials are teaming up to promote the region as the HQ2 search continues. Amazon fever has even entered the world of local business conferences: an event dubbed “HQmania” is scheduled to be held in Rosslyn next month. [Washington Business Journal, WAMU, DCA Live]

Rosslyn Lands Nonprofit HQ — “It’s been a good week for Rosslyn. First came the news that Gerber, a Nestle subsidiary, would relocate its headquarters and 150 jobs from New Jersey to 1812 N. Moore St. And Friday, we learn that a D.C.-based global nonprofit has decided to cross the Potomac into Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

ART Bus Stop Vandalized — Someone smashed two of the windows on an ART bus stop in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood late last week. [Twitter]

Arlington Man Charged With Statutory Rape — A 47-year-old Arlington man was arrested at his home last month and charged with the statutory rape of a minor in North Carolina. The man arranged meeting the minor in North Carolina via the messaging app Kik, which is popular with teens. [Fox 8]

Local Columbine Survivor Addresses Student Protesters — “Salli Garrigan was in music class when the sound of gunshots reverberated through the halls of her high school… Garrigan, now 35 and an Arlington resident, stood Friday before a crowd of D.C.-area students gathered on the U.S. Capitol lawn and told them when she was their age, she didn’t know how to make her voice heard.” [Washington Post]

Long Bridge Park Field Renovations Starting — Work is set to begin today on new turf for Long Bridge Park’s heavily-used Field No. 3. The field is expected to be closed for 45 days. [Arlington County]

Past and Present School Board Members Gather — On Thursday, the Arlington School Board held its last meeting at the Arlington Education Center building next to Washington-Lee High School. The board room and administrative offices are moving to the Syphax Education Center along Washington Blvd. To mark the last meeting, past and current School Board members members gathered for a photo. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Duluoz Me

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The Arlington County Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance to find a man suspected of sexually assaulting a woman in Shirlington last night (Thursday).

Police responded to the area of S. Randolph Street at 31st Street S. at approximately 10:41 p.m. on November 2 for the report of a rape. Officer said the victim was putting items in her parked car when a man approached her from behind and sexually assaulted her. He then fled on foot.

The area is near The Citizen at Shirlington apartment building and the Shirlington bus station.

Police said the suspect is a black male in his 20s, approximately 5-foot-6 to 6-feet tall with a thin build. He was wearing a white t-shirt at the time of the incident. He was last seen fleeing the area on foot, traveling southbound on 31st Street S.

More from an ACPD press release:

Detectives from the Special Victim’s Unit are actively investigating this incident. Responding officers established a perimeter, canvassed the area and spoke with possible witnesses. Arlington County canine units attempted a track of the suspect and the Fairfax County Police Helicopter Unit provided an aerial search with negative results. Officers will continue conducting extra checks in the area.

If anyone has information on the identity of this individual or details surrounding this incident, please contact Detective N. Brooks of the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit at 703.228.4169 or at [email protected]. To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

Photo via Google Maps

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